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Drilling mud spills at Repsol exploratory well

Posted: February 16, 2012 - 12:13am

ANCHORAGE — No workers were injured or oil spilled when an exploratory well being drilled by a new company to the North Slope had an apparent blow-out Wednesday.

An exploratory well near the mouth of the Colville River hit a natural gas patch — also called a “kick” — about 2,600 feet deep, forcing drilling mud back up into the rig and onto the drill pad, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Ty Keltner said in a release.

About 1,200 gallons of drilling mud were released on the gravel pad and snow-covered tundra, Keltner said. The spill was at the Qugruk 2 drill site near Nuiqsut, about 625 miles north of Anchorage.

Spanish oil company Repsol evacuated workers from the site over concerns of methane gas. The North Slope Borough said in a release that the well is not under control, and gas was being vented through a diverter.

A state and a borough official each are expected to be onsite Thursday. A command incident team also is being arranged in Anchorage.

Repsol is investigating bringing Wild Well Control Co. from Houston to help control the well. The North Slope company Alaska Clean Seas is also responding.

Drilling mud, or drilling fluid, is a term for liquids used in drilling that lubricate the drill shaft and cool the hole.

Repsol E&P USA Inc., a subsidiary of Spain energy company Repsol-YPF, announced in March that it would invest at least $768 million in North Slope oil exploration and development. At the time, Repsol said it was working with 70 & 148 LLC and GMT Exploration LLC to develop leases over a 772-square mile area. It began exploratory work this winter.

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