Specialists prepare to cap gas blowout in Gulf of Mexico


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, July 19 -- Specialists from Wild Well Control Inc., Spring, Tex., are scheduled Friday to begin efforts to cap a week-old natural gas blowout in the Gulf of Mexico about 26 miles south of Freeport, Tex.

Workers were loading equipment Thursday aboard the Hercules construction barge belonging to Global Industries Ltd., Houston. That barge was off Mexico earlier this week and moved up under contract with Global Marine Inc., Houston, to assist in efforts to cap the blowout from the surface.

Meanwhile, workers ran the first string of casing in the relief well being drilled close by as a backup method for killing the blowout. It will take about 3 weeks to drill the relief well, officials estimated.

There has been no fire, although natural gas continues to blow from the well. But a fire-fighting tug remains at the site, officials said Thursday.

The blowout occurred about 4 a.m. July 13 aboard the Marine 4 mat-supported jack up contracted from Marine Drilling Cos. Inc. of Sugar Land, Tex., by Applied Drilling Technology Inc. (ADTI), Global Marine's turnkey drilling subsidiary.

Ben Freeman, 61, of DeRidder, La., employed by ADTI as drilling supervisor, was credited with heroically directing the evacuation of the other 39 workers aboard the rig.

However, Freeman disappeared during the evacuation and is assumed dead after searchers failed to find any trace of him. Global Marine is using sonar equipment and a remotely operated submarine vehicle to search for his body near the base of the Marine 4 rig, which remains in place.

The cause of the blowout and the amount of damage to the rig has not yet been determined.

Freeman was one of two ADTI employees aboard the Marine 4 rig at the time of the blowout. The other 38 people aboard were employed by Marine Drilling or other contractors, officials said.

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