By Friday afternoon Chesapeake Energy crews made progress with favorable wind conditions at the Combs Ranch Unit oil rig.
At 7 p.m. April 27, Chesapeake Energy and contract specialists, took advantage of wind conditions that allowed safe operations, regained control of the Combs Ranch Unit well in Converse County 10 miles northeast of Douglas. Drilling mud was pumped down the well to neutralize downhole formation pressure, allowing the installation of pressure-control equipment on the surface.
The incident began at approximately 4 p.m. April 24th. There have been no injuries.
Chesapeake has started an evaluation of the affected site and the cause of the incident remains under investigation. Chesapeake is committed to full remediation of any environmental impact that may have occurred as a result of this incident. The company will also determine when the well can continue to be completed and ultimately placed into production.
A Chesapeake release states:
Air sampling results from surrounding areas continue to register as normal. If evacuated residents choose, they may remain in area hotels at the company’s expense.
The incident remains under investigation.
The incident occurred while steel casing was being installed in the well. A leak of oil-based drilling mud occurred, which is largely being contained on the location, and natural gas, which is dissipating into the atmosphere. Steps are being taken to mitigate any localized environmental impact.
This is all the information that is available at this time and the company will issue information updates when warranted.
According to the Gillette News Record, Chesapeake officials called for help from oil field service provider Halliburton Co.’s division called Boots & Coots, which specializes in pressure control on in oil and gas development, said Tom Doll, Wyoming State Oil and Gas supervisor.
“They go all over the world taking care of wells of this nature,” Doll said.
An Oil and Gas Conservation Commission field inspector went to the site shortly after the blowout and worked late into the night and was back on the site Wednesday morning.
“Chesapeake has handled this situation professionally,” Doll said. “At this point we believe they are in compliance with our rules and regulations.”
According to public documents, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved drilling the well Nov. 18. Chesapeake has drilled about 11,500 feet into the Niobrara formation. The well is a horizontal well, which means that once drillers approach the desired depth, they drill horizontally at least 4,800 feet.
Doll said that the horizontal part of the drilling had been completed. The drillers pulled out the bit and were going to run the casing into the horizontal leg of the well.
Horizontal wells are for hydraulic fracturing, in which the company pumps water, chemicals and sand into the rock to cause fractures to release gas.
Doll said the company was several weeks from even beginning fracking operations.
“It had nothing to do with fracking,” Doll said.
Doll could not be sure of the timing of when the well would be under control, a procedure called “kill the well.”
The company will assess damage and clean up. However, the environmental damage has yet to be determined.
Sometimes natural gas is in a liquid form and that causes damage to the land and is an increased fire danger that a spark could ignite the area.
A fire could destroy the rig and make it impossible to continue operating the well.
But in this case, the natural gas is in a gaseous form, and there’s a higher chance that production could continue, Doll said.
“It’s bad for the air quality, there’s no doubt,” Doll said. “But we have no idea yet an estimate of how much gas is being released. We’re expecting Chesapeake to be estimating that.”