Oil well fire out; cappedBISMARCK (AP) — A crew battling an oil well blaze in northwestern North Dakota that had been burning for nearly two weeks doused the fire on Friday and temporarily capped the wellhead, the owner of the well said.
BISMARCK (AP) — A crew battling an oil well blaze in northwestern North Dakota that had been burning for nearly two weeks doused the fire on Friday and temporarily capped the wellhead, the owner of the well said.
“It’s back under control and no longer flaring,” said Brent Collins, a spokesman for the well’s owner, SM Energy Co. of Denver. “The fire is out.”
Collins said well fire specialists from Houston-based Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc. stopped the fire Friday morning and were rebuilding the wellhead that afternoon. The process could take several days, he said.
“The mechanical and structural integrity is still intact, and we will be able to reuse the well,” Collins said.
The fire, eight miles north of Arnegard, started March 7. No one was hurt. Lynn Helms, the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, has said a hot engine from a pump truck likely ignited hydraulic fracturing fluid from the well. McKenzie County Sheriff Ron Rankin said flames from the well roiled up to 80 feet in the air.
Well fire specialists and equipment from Boots & Coots, which is now owned by oil services company Halliburton Co., have been on scene since last week. But the company, which has helped douse oil field fires from Nigeria to Kuwait, faced problems beyond a blown-out well: North Dakota’s notoriously nasty weather.
Helms said a blizzard last week halted firefighting efforts for at least one day. The well site and roads leading to it then became mired with mud from warmer temperatures, forcing crews to dump gravel so machinery could get to the blaze, he said.
“The weather and blizzard was a major problem,” Helms said. “They are used to working in all kinds of environments, but this was one that made work impossible.”
Firefighters made progress at mid-week clearing debris from the well site and installing a large tube over the well to direct the flame, Helms said. He said the cost of the fighting the well fire and the lost revenue from the burned crude is not known, but it will be expensive.
“Boots and Coots is well compensated for what they do and the risk they take,” he said.
Collins did not know how much the well fire will cost his company. He estimated the well was pumping 1,000 to 2,000 barrels of oil daily.
“It appears to be a pretty good well,” he said.
Helms said “thousands of gallons” of fluid spilled at the site, and the state is monitoring the cleanup.
No one has complained about health problems caused by the fire or smoke, either to humans or livestock, Rankin said. The closest residence is several hundred yards from the well site. Arnegard has about 100 residents. Rankin said many who live in town work in the oil patch.
State Health Department environmental chief Dave Glatt said dikes have been built and hay has been scattered to contain and absorb other fluids at the site.
“A little is running off-site, but it’s not getting into waterways,” Glatt said. Smoke and soot from the burning well has not affected air quality in the area, he said.
“It’s more visual than anything,” Glatt said.
Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, said the oil well fire hurt the environment.
“Obviously, a burning oil well causes air pollution,” he said.
Schafer has been critical of the state for not having specialized equipment ready in North Dakota to battle oil field fires. The equipment for the well fire had to be brought from Texas.
“We were not prepared for a crisis like this,” Schafer said.
Helms said the state’s Industrial Commission is slated to discuss the issue of having specialized well fire equipment on hand. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring make up the commission.