Crews drilling relief well in Gulf of Mexico

Crews have started drilling a relief well to secure natural gas Well A-23 on South Timbalier Block 220 off Louisiana, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said, adding that drilling, which started on Aug. 4, is expected to take about 35 days.

Operator Walter Oil & Gas Corp. hired the Rowan EXL-3 jack up rig to drill the relief well to Well A-23, which is in 154 ft of water about 55 miles off Louisiana.

Walter experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 July 23 on an unmanned platform during completion work on a sidetrack well. Hercules Offshore safely evacuated 44 workers from the Hercules 265 jack up rig before leaking natural gas ignited on the rig hours later (OGJ Online, July 24, 2013).

On July 25, BSEE confirmed the gas flow subsided after a natural bridging process, and the fire was suppressed.

BSEE noted Aug. 5 that many factors can affect the relief well drilling schedule, including weather and the process of locating the target wellbore at the end of the relief well drilling. Once Well A23-A is intercepted, crews will pump drilling mud and then cement into it.

Walter planned to submit its plans for well-intervention work to BSEE for review and approval. Federal regulators previously approved plans to drill the relief well.

From visual observation, BSEE said a sheen was no longer present in the area of the well. The US Coast Guard continues to maintain a 500-m safety zone around the site.

Firefighting and other marine vessels remain onsite with workers from Walter, Hercules, and other engineering contractors.

BSEE and USCG are overseeing the response efforts. BSEE is investigating the cause of the loss of well control.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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