Skip to comments.Companies prepare to battle blaze on Gulf rig after well leak
Posted on 07/24/2013 5:44:42 PM PDT by thackney
A blowout preventer may have ignited the fire that caused a Gulf of Mexico rig to partially collapse Wednesday, after a natural gas well blew out, federal authorities reported.
A leak in the natural gas well, owned by Walter Oil & Gas, ignited a fire on a jack-up rig operated by Hercules Offshore late Tuesday night, hours after its 44 workers had been evacuated, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The blowout preventer has since collapsed and isolated the fire,reducing the danger of a fire on the remainder of the jack-up rig but making a top kill operation remote, the Coast Guard said in an update to Congress Wednesday afternoon.
The two Houston-based companies have been working together with Wild Well Control, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to curb the uncontrolled flow of natural gas from the well.
We are making preparations to fight the fire at this point, said Tim OLeary, a spokesman for Walter Oil & Gas. We are marshaling pumps and boats with firefighting apparatus.
No one was injured in the evacuation, and no oil was spilled, OLeary said.
Two firefighting vessels in the area have been moved to a safe distance from the fire and a third vessel with additional fire-fighting capability has been moved to the site, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
OLeary said that the cantilever, an appendage of the jack-up rig that moves the drilling equipment over the well platform, has caught fire, but that the fire has not spread to the rest of the rig.
The fire caused the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor of the cantilever to fold and collapse over the rig structure, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. The offshore support vessels were unable to get close enough to safely put water on the rig, the Coast Guard said in an update.
The ignition source may have been heat generated by the friction of formation sand shooting through the blowout preventer, the Coast Guard said. The sand may have traveled on the drill floor and up into the metal of the derrick.
Operators lost control of the natural gas well early Tuesday in the South Timbalier Block 220 in the Gulf of Mexico, while doing completion work on a sidetrack well to prepare for production. All 44 personnel from the Hercules 265 jack-up rig were safely evacuated, the company said.
We do not know the status of the blowout preventer, James Noe, executive vice president of Hercules Offshore, told FuelFix. Its on the rig which is on fire.
The blowout preventer was constructed by Cameron, Noe said. Cameron will hold its second quarter earnings call on Thursday morning at 8:30 CST.
There is no doubt that Hercules as well as Walter Oil & Gas, and the regulators, will be keenly interested in what role, if any, the blowout preventer played, Noe said. At the present moment we are singularly focused on identifying a plan, together with Walter Oil & Gas and the federal regulators, to regain control of the well.
Any incident that involves an uncontrolled flow of hydrocarbons is likely to ignite, according to Brian Kalinec, owner of Kalinec Enterprises, a geophysicist consulting firm.
Any kind of a spark or friction, especially if the surrounding air is dry, could start a fire, Kalinec said. It is like lighting a match and throwing it towards gasoline. It is highly flammable, so a spark could have caused it, if there is no other explanation.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is directing Walter Oil & Gas to begin preparations to move a jack-up rig on location to potentially drill a relief well.It could take two to four days to move a rig to location, and an additional 25 days to drill a a relief well, the Coast Guard said Wednesday afternoon in a written statement.
We are not focusing on the cause of the spark, said Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. All of that is going to be part of an investigation that has started into the loss of well control event. Right now, we are focusing on the fire and the securing of the well.
The relief operations challenge will be to establish the flow path of the natural gas and then figure out the best way to mitigate it, according to Bud Danenberger, a consultant and former chief of offshore regulatory programs at the Minerals Management Service, which has now been reorganized into the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Their options are a surface operation which would be hazardous under the circumstances or a relief well, Danenberger said. In many ways it is much more dangerous to deal with a shallow water operation than a subsea well. In a deepwater operation, the emergency personnel are safely removed from the well and using operating equipment remotely. At 5,000 feet above, you are running a joy stick as opposed to being right there where the fire is and running the risk of a structure collapsing.
While the source of the leak is still unknown, Danenberger explained that there are several possibilities. The flow path could be inside production casing or tubing.
Another flow path could be between the casing strings or the space between the two concentric casing strings. Alternatively, it could be outside the casing, back to the seafloor, either through cement channels or through fractures in the sediments.
The fact that there is a fire would imply that that is flowing inside the casing or between the casing strings, because it is coming back up to the surface to the rig, Danenberger said.
The next steps for the operation will hinge on how the well was constructed.
I would hope that there is enough well bore and well integrity that they can apply a surface cap and then pump in mud and cement or make some connections to pump in heavy mud, but I have no idea what the well flow is, Danenberger said. This is all contingent on the integrity of the well bore.
The natural gas flow has caused a one mile by 200 foot area of light sheen that is dissipating and no shoreline impact is expected under current conditions, the Coast Guard said.
The well is 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana in 154 feet of water, Walter Oil & Gas said.
The rig was working on a sidetrack well drilled adjacent to an existing one in preparation for production, the safety bureau said.
The two companies have emphasized the focus on safety in efforts to control the well.
The accident comes on the heels of a Talos Energy well leak earlier this month. Responders stopped the leak after four days, installing a metal plug and pumping cement into the site.
In 2010, BPs Macondo well blew, releasing an estimated five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was successfully contained.
Look at all that climate change stuff!!!
BSEE, Coast Guard Provide Response Oversight to Rig Fire
NEW ORLEANS - The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard are continuing to oversee Walter Oil & Gas Corporations response efforts to secure the natural gas well and extinguish the subsequent fire that started after the operators loss of well control yesterday morning.
Both BSEE and Coast Guard conducted overflights this morning to assess the situation. Coast Guard confirmed that the fire began at 10:45 p.m. CDT July 23. There is no observed sheen on the water surface. As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure.
Two firefighting vessels were in the area and re-located to a safe distance from the fire. A third vessel equipped with fire-fighting capability and improved monitoring system is enroute and expected to arrive late morning. The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Pompano is standing by to assess the situation and enforce the security zone. The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress is enroute and will arrive at approximately noon.
Under BSEEs direction, Walter Oil & Gas has begun preparations to move a jack-up rig on location to potentially drill a relief well. BSEE continues to review and approve all operational plans and procedures. BSEE’s priority throughout this operation is the safety of the offshore workers and the protection of the environment.
BSEE and the Coast Guard have stood up a Command Center to respond to the event, which is happening 55 miles offshore Louisiana in 154 feet of water. Walter Oil and Gas Corporation experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 at approximately 8:45 a.m. July 23 on an unmanned platform at South Timbalier Block 220 while doing completion work on the sidetrack well to prepare the well for production. The operator reported the safe evacuation of 44 personnel from the Hercules 265 jack-up rig.
BSEE’s investigation into the cause of the loss of well control is underway in coordination with Coast Guard. Media inquiries should be referred to BSEE Public Affairs Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, (504) 736-2595.
This is much ado about nothing.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
I don’t recall ever hearing of this “Bureau” before.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) was formally established on October 1, 2011 as part of a major reorganization of the Department of the Interior’s offshore regulatory structure.
On May 19, 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Secretarial Order dividing the Minerals Management Service (MMS) into three independent entities to better carry out its three missions of 1) ensuring the balanced and responsible development of energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS); 2) ensuring safe and environmentally responsible exploration and production and enforcing applicable rules and regulations; and 3) ensuring a fair return to the taxpayer from offshore royalty and revenue collection and disbursement activities.
MMS was renamed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to more accurately describe the scope of the organizations oversight. Michael R. Bromwich, was chosen to lead BOEMRE in June 2010 to reform the governments regulation of offshore energy development and the agency responsible for it.
On October 1, 2010, the bureau completed the transfer of the revenue collection function. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue now resides under the jurisdiction of DOIs Office of Policy, Management and Budget. The final stage of the reorganization of BOEMRE will become effective October 1, 2011 when its splits into two independent entities: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
I suspect the owners of the rig and the well don’t view it that way.
But as a Natural Gas Well, it isn’t going to create an oil spill like the BP Mercando / Deep Water Horizon blowout and fire.
As an environmental event, True. But as a huge and difficult fire... Not so much. Lots of good hard-earned money going up in flames there.
Well, I could have done that! Just kidding, I was actually wondering if anyone else had heard of it. Thanks.
Video flyover before fire
Wasn’t it a Cameron BOP on the BP Mercando well??
Wonder if wireline was running into the other well to perforate or they were rigging up to perforate it when things went to crap?
So is this another instance of a fail-safe blowout protector failing again?
A Gulf of Mexico rig crew tried to activate their blowout preventers shear rams to cut a pipe and shut off the well before they were forced to flee Tuesday, sources close to the investigation told WWL-TV.
But for reasons that investigators will now try to determine, the device didnt stem the flow of natural gas that caught fire 15 hours later and melted portions of the cantilevered jack-up rig Wednesday.
Rig crew activated BOP before abandoning blown out well
Tuesdays blowout happened in shallow 154-foot waters, and the blowout preventer sits not on the sea floor but within the crew’s reach above the waters surface.
But like with Macondo, the crew was at the bottom of a well, pulling a pipe back out of the hole when something went seriously wrong. Also, the crew on the Hercules 256 jack-up rig, which was drilling for Walter, had about 30 minutes to try to fix things before the unwanted incursion of natural gas turned into a full-fledged blowout, sources told WWL-TV.
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