California well explosion under investigation

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and California's Division of Oil and Gas (DOG) regulatory agency are investigating the cause of an explosion and fire that occurred at a development well being drilled at Tapia Canyon heavy oil field in northern Los Angeles County, Calif., early Saturday morning.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Nov. 19 -- The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and California's Division of Oil and Gas (DOG) regulatory agency are investigating the cause of an explosion and fire that occurred at a development well being drilled at Tapia Canyon heavy oil field in northern Los Angeles County, Calif., early Saturday morning.

The blast killed one worker—unidentified at presstime—and seriously injured another, who is being treated for burns at a local hospital. Both victims were employees of Caza Drilling Inc., Denver, which at the time of the explosion was performing drilling operations for Denver-based operator TEG Oil & Gas USA Inc., a subsidiary of Sefton Resources Inc., also based in Denver. Two other workers on shift at the time escaped injury.

Personnel from Houston-based Boots & Coots International Well Control Service controlled the flow with a temporary cap on the well, and extinguished the fire by Tuesday, said well control specialist Raymond Henry. Workers are expected to complete removal of debris from the well site Tuesday, allowing well control specialists to put a permanent cap on the well by Tuesday evening.

The cause of the accident was undetermined at presstime, but Sefton Chairman and CEO Jim Ellerton said the driller had "reached its target drilling depth of 1,285 ft. and was bringing the drill string out of hole when the well blew out, apparently from a shallow gas zone." The Yule sand, discovered in the late 1950s and currently producing from 12-14 wells, contains heavy oil of 17-18° gravity, he said, and "the oil stayed in the hole. Dry gas and sand came up, but it was clean sand, and there was no sulfur and no environmental damage," he added.

It is not known yet whether the well will be recompleted or abandoned. "That will be up to DOG," Ellerton said, "once the cause of the blowout has been investigated and its effect on the company's operations in Tapia field becomes known."

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