Oil well out of control: Geyser of oil, gas near Watford City

2012-12-22T21:35:00Z 2012-12-22T22:02:28Z Oil well out of control: Geyser of oil, gas near Watford CityBy LAUREN DONOVAN | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

For the second time this month, an oil well is out of control. This one a geyser spewing oil, gas and salt water 95 feet into the air at a well location five miles west of Watford City.

A workover crew trying to bring the well into production lost control at about 8 p.m. on Friday, said Keith Schmidt, spokesman for well owner Newfield Exploration of Houston.

Schmidt said Wild Well Control is on location and will bring in specialized equipment with plans to get the well controlled today.

Schmidt said no one was injured in the blowout.

Kris Roberts, environmental geologist for the State Health Department, who’s on site, said contamination is spreading a mile or more downwind, partly because of the high pressure in the well and partly because of the elevation of the blowout.

Roberts said the well string pipe blew up out of the well and got caught up the workover rigging.

“That’s giving the oil and gas a real elevation” and causing most of it to blow off site, Roberts said.

He said the well was recently hydraulically fractured and crews had been flowing back the frack fluids for about five or six days. They were attempting to bring the well into production when they lost control. He said samples will show whether any of the spilled fluids were frack fluids.

Schmidt said it’s too soon to know what equipment failed. He did not have an estimate on how much fluid was leaving the well.

Roberts said well blowouts are “far and few between. It’s surprising to have two in such a short time.”

A workover rig crew at a Slawson Exploration Co. well lost control of a well near Lake Sakakawea on Dec. 12. The company estimated about 1,500 barrels of fluid leaked, most into a containment berm and was recovered. Environmental clean up at that site started last week. The company said it appears there was some failure in the blowout preventer valving.

Reach reporter Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.

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