Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013
HOUSTON — A mixture of gas, condensate and water has stopped leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at a broken offshore well, according to government regulators and the company that owns it.
Work is now shifting to permanently cap the well, which rests in about 140 feet of water about 70 miles south of Port Fourchon, La. Rough waters are making that work more difficult, but officials at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement say they will continue to monitor the crew’s work to plug the well with cement, which the agency foresees happening over the weekend.
Energy Resource Technology GOM Inc., the operator of the well and now a subsidiary of Talos Energy LLC, halted the leak last night by pumping drilling mud into the well after BSEE approved the plan.
ERT said the volume of hydrocarbons released into the environment is low enough that it would naturally dissipate and evaporate, much as naturally occurring oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico do. No cleanup operations are planned at this time.
“The discharge volumes were very low, and the sheen that had formed earlier in the week appears to have evaporated almost completely,” a Talos spokesman said in an email.
“Permanent plugging and cementing is what will come next,” the spokesman added, confirming that choppy seas were slowing the pace of the intervention.
ERT workers were performing maintenance on the well earlier this week when they noticed a loss of control and escaping natural gas. The platform was promptly evacuated, and no injuries were sustained.
The platform, located in the offshore area known as Ship Shoal, is connected to another nearby platform by a bridge, and intervention work and situation monitoring have been occurring largely from that installation. The Coast Guard also responded to the incident.
The installation was built in the 1970s and has been a marginal producer since at least the late 1990s. According to BSEE, the
response team is now considering how to permanently close it.
“BSEE engineers are reviewing plans and procedures from ERT for moving forward to isolate the well’s hydrocarbon zone,” the agency said in a release. “A BSEE supervisory inspector is on board the platform monitoring the ongoing site assessment and well analysis.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter