Gas well still leaking 48 hours after explosion

Published: Jul. 20, 2012 at 1:50 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2012 at 1:43 AM CDT
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More than two days after the incident, Saturday emergency management teams remained on the scene of a gas well head that was blown off Thursday evening in Wayne County.

There is still no estimate on when the well may be capped but today workers were began pumping mud into the well in an effort to slow down the current of gas rushing out, so that they could work on capping it.

Authorities that reached the scene moments after the explosion said the natural gas gushing from the burst pipe sounded like a jet engine taking off.

"We had a maintenance crew doing work on the well and we had a mechanical failure at the top of the well head itself," said Jerry Foster, a production manager for Escambia Operating Company, LLC., which owns the well.

Emergency Management Director, Todd Cleary, says it happened in the Clara community around 7:10 p.m. Thursday. There were approximately twenty workers at the site when the well burst, none were injured.

The 26 residents living within a one-mile radius of the well were evacuated within hours of the blast with concerns that the gas levels could become toxic, or create a fire hazard.

The sulfuric odor of the natural gas pouring from the exploded well can be smelled several miles away, across the community of Clara, where the well is located.

"If [residents are] outside that perimeter that we have set up - that one mile radius - we've got air quality monitor guys going around all over and they're checking every place, they have not yet called back with any space that was so bad that it was dangerous outside that one mile," said Cleary.

Escambia is heading up efforts to repair it but Foster, who was flown in from Houston to manage the well repairs, could not give an estimate as to when it would be capped, whether it will take days or weeks. He said the well was undergoing fairly routine maintenance measures when there was a mechanical failure. He said the explosion did not appear to be the result of human error but the cause is still under investigation. A faulty part is also a possibility.

The well was established in Clara about 10 years ago and this is the first major incident at the site.

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