Workers evacuated from offshore well after incident

Non-essential personnel have been evacuated from a shallow-water well Apache Corp. has been drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, amid concerns about an underground flow of natural gas at the site.

Gas has not been detected at the seafloor and there is no sign of pollution at the location, but federal regulators confirmed Thursday that Apache reported the underground gas movement after an emergency more than a week ago.

Workers triggered the blowout preventer at the site to keep the well under control on Feb. 4, after they detected a kick, an uncontrolled flow of fluid coming to the surface. Although the move successfully prevented gas from escaping, later testing detected that hydrocarbons had migrated from the bottom of the well roughly 8,300 feet down to a shallower sand formation 1,100 feet below the surface.

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“The well was shut in, and the blowout preventers are functioning properly,” Apache Corp. said in a statement. No one was injured in the incident.

Apache is now working with well control experts from Boots and Coots to kill the well. At the direction of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Apache is mobilizing another drilling rig — the Rowan Cecil Provine — to the location in case a relief well is necessary.

The well is located in 218 feet of water about 50 miles east of Venice, La. It was being drilled by the Ensco 87 jack-up rig.

(Jay Carr/Houston Chronicle)