Update 5 (29 July 2013)
On 27 July, BSEE approved a permit application by Walter Oil and Gas to drill the relief well which will permanently kill the well that blew out last week, destroying a fixed gas platform and seriously damaging the Hercules 265 drilling rig. Rowan Drilling’s EXL-3 jack-up rig has been contracted by Walter and is on location at South Timbalier 220. Crews are preparing the rig to drill the relief well which will intercept the blown-out well and secure it with cement and heavy mud.
Update 4 (1032 EST 25 July 2013)
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is currently returning from their tour of the incident scene and our source indicates that the fire from the well is out and a clean-up plan is in progress. This would indicate that the well has caved in and sealed itself downhole, effectively removing the fuel source from the blaze.
We have reached out to BSEE and Walter Oil and Gas, but are still waiting for official comments.
Update 3 (0800 EST 25 July 2013):
We just got word from our source that the well bridged over last night. BSEE is currently on their way to the scene to confirm.
Update 2 (2200 EST 24 July 2013):
A Seacor-owned OSV is currently attempting to cool the rig, however it’s only able to come to about 100 yards of the rig. According to a gCaptain source it is doing little more than misting the charred jack-up rig. Well intervention experts are unlikely to have much success in killing this well, considering the incredible heat from the blaze.
Images via Anonymous gCaptain contributor:
Our source did note that the hydrocarbons appeared to have a bit more water and steam mixed into the plume of fire this afternoon, which could indicate that the well may be in the process of bridging off, or killing itself on its own.
As the above image shows, the derrick on board the jack-up and the well platform have largely disintegrated, but the rig itself still appears somewhat structurally sound.
As of this afternoon, our source notes that the wellhead is starting to burn lower than it was burning earlier today, which would indicate significant deterioration or disintegration of the top of the wellhead.
Minimal sheen is currently visible in the immediate vicinity.
In a statement earlier today by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Walter Oil & Gas has begun preparations to drill a relief well to quell the blaze. Hercules notes that should a relief well be necessary, they are prepared to “promptly mobilize the Hercules 200, a 200′ mat-supported cantilevered unit to execute drilling of the relief well.”
BSEE has confirmed this morning that the Hercules 265 jack-up rig has caught fire following a loss of well control on board the rig yesterday.
According to a BSEE statement, the natural gas leaking from the well ignited at 10:50 p.m. CDT July 23, 2013. No one was on board at the time of the ignition.
This likely leaves very few options now to regain control of the fire considering that the primary means of controlling the flow of the fuel source, which is the blowout preventer (BOP), has likely failed.
Unlike the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout, the BOP on the Hercules rig is above the water and surrounded by an uncontrolled fire. Access to it will no doubt be impossible.
The following is video of the gas escaping from the well taken yesterday:
The operator of the field, Walter Oil and Gas can only hope that the uncontrolled flow of gas from the well causes the well to bridge off, aka collapse downhole, and seal itself off in that way, but it may take some time.
The rig is on contract with Walter Oil & Gas Corporation and operating at South Timbalier Block 220 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, located about 55 miles offshore Louisiana in 154 feet of water.
In the 2012 fire involving the jack-up rig KS Endeavor offshore Nigeria, the fire burned for about two months, and there was literally nothing left of the rig by the time the well stopped flowing. In the meantime however, another jack-up rig was contracted to drill a well to intercept the one that was flowing in order to stem the flow of the well from its source.
This was a very expensive task for both Chevron Nigeria, and indirectly ExxonMobil, who had to disengage their rig from a current project to help quell this incident.