Crews to start relief well Thursday at Gulf blowout site

Crews plan to begin drilling Thursday to intercept and plug a natural gas well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico last week, federal regulators said Tuesday.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement projected it will take about 35 days to drill the relief well, but emphasized that weather and potential technical difficulties could affect the schedule.

Once the relief well intercepts the existing one, it will pump in drilling mud followed by cement, the safety bureau said.

The blowout occurred  while a  rig operated by Hercules Offshore was drilling a sidetrack well for Walter Oil & Gas. Both companies are based in Houston. The sidetrack well — one drilled adjacent to another —  was intended to resume production at an existing Walter project.

Gas started flowing out of control the morning of July 23, and ignited on the drilling rig that night. By early Thursday the well bridged — meaning sand and sediment within the hole blocked the gas flow – and the fire went out.

No one was injured and there was no oil spill.