Crews Thawing Equipment on Rig That Suffered Blowout

South end of mud-water.

Photo by W. Ghormley – Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

Crews are still thawing equipment on the North Slope drilling rig that suffered a blowout last week. The Spanish company Repsol was drilling an exploratory well on Wednesday when they hit a gas pocket that caused the blowout. Natural gas was flowing uncontrolled from the well and so workers had to shut down the equipment and evacuate the rig.

Now that equipment is so thoroughly frozen, Cathy Foerster, with the Alaska Oil and Gas conservation Commission says crews could be thawing it for four or five more days.

Repsol is contracting with a company called Wild Well Control to gain control of the well. They will likely use heavy mud to do the job but the Department of Environmental Conservation reports the line to inject mud is also frozen. Crews are working on a way to bypass the line. Foerster says even though the well is mostly quiet now, Wild Well Control will have to make sure no more gas or debris can escape.

Foerster says she hasn’t seen a proposal from the company on how they plan to kill the well, but she expects to have it in the next few days.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie