The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard are continuing to oversee Walter Oil & Gas Corporation’s response efforts to secure the natural gas well and extinguish the subsequent fire that started after the operator’s loss of well control Tuesday.
Both BSEE and Coast Guard conducted multiple overflights today to supplement responsible party flights to maintain aerial surveillance of the scene. The natural gas well continues to fuel the fire on the rig. The derrick and drill floor structure has collapsed over the rig, and a very light sheen that dissipates quickly has been observed in the ocean.
A water curtain is being applied by a fire-fighting vessel to the rig. A water curtain’s purpose is not to extinguish the fire, but to provide heat protection to the rig. Coast Guard Cutter Pompano and Cutter Cypress are on location enforcing the safety zone and assessing the changing conditions on the rig.
BSEE expects Walter Oil & Gas to submit a permit application to drill a relief well this evening. The permit, which would include details on the proposed well and the casing and cementing programs, must be approved by BSEE engineers before drilling could commence. BSEE continues to review and approve all operational plans and procedures for the response. BSEE's priority throughout this operation is the safety of the offshore workers and the protection of the environment.
BSEE and the Coast Guard have stood up a Command Center to respond to the event, which is happening 55 miles offshore Louisiana in 154 feet of water. Walter Oil and Gas Corporation experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 at approximately 8:45 a.m. July 23 on an unmanned platform at South Timbalier Block 220 while doing completion work on the sidetrack well to prepare the well for production. The operator reported the safe evacuation of 44 personnel from the Hercules 265 jack-up rig. Coast Guard confirmed that the fire began at 10:45 p.m. CDT July 23.
BSEE's investigation into the cause of the loss of well control is underway in coordination with Coast Guard. A Joint Information Center will be stood up beginning Thursday morning along with the Unified Area Command. Media inquiries should be directed to (504) 736-2595.