Workers prepare to drill relief well in Gulf of Mexico

Workers boarded the Hercules 265 jack up rig to install gas detectors and high-capacity water jet fire monitors, officials said, adding that responders are preparing to drill a relief well to secure a natural gas well on South Timbalier Block 220 after a well-control incident and a subsequent rig fire.

Walter Oil & Gas Corp. experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 on July 23 during completion work on a sidetrack well, prompting the safe evacuation of 44 workers from the Hercules 265 jack up rig. Leaking gas ignited a fire on the rig on late July 23.

Well A-3, in 154 ft of water, bridged over on July 25, meaning sand and sediment stopped the gas flow. Consequently, the fire diminished on the rig.

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued a relief well drilling permit to Walter on July 27. Walter Oil & Gas hired the Rowan EXL-3 jack up rig, which has set anchor at South Timbalier 220 in anticipation of drilling the relief well 55 miles off Louisiana.

Drilling contractor Hercules Offshore said the Hercules 265 sustained damage but structural integrity remains intact. The US Coast Guard maintains a 500-m safety zone around the site. Firefighting and other marine vessels remain onsite with personnel from Walter, Hercules, and other contractors, and federal agencies. Response crews will use a Superior Derrick Services barge to assist with well intervention activities.

BSEE and USCG are investigating cause of the loss of well control. Meanwhile, Hercules Offshore is hosting an earnings call on July 31.

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