Gas no longer flowing at North Slope well blowout

Gas is no longer flowing on a shallow blowout at Repsol E&P USA's Qugruk 2 exploration well in the Colville River delta on the North Slope, but water is still being released and the well is not yet under control, an Alaska agency said Thursday morning.

"We were informed at 6 p.m. last night that the flow of gas has ceased but that the well is still blowing water. We were also told that well control people from Houston will be on the scene soon," said Cathy Foerster, a Commissioner with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Repsol said the incident occurred at 10:15 a.m. Alaska time Wednesday when the well "kicked" after entering a shallow gas pocket. Drilling was at 2,600 feet when the kick occurred. About 1,200 gallons of drilling fluids were released as of Thursday afternoon, but additional water from the well is still being released.

Repsol reported the incident to the AOGCC, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the North Slope Borough, the regional municipality.

"Repsol is leading the response in accordance with an approved spill contingency plan," Gordon Brower, the on-scene coordinator for the North Slope Borough, said in a statement.

Repsol has contracted with the O'Briens Group to manage its response to the incident, the state DEC said in a statement.

The company is also working with the Wild Well Control Company of Houston to be flown to Prudhoe Bay to assist in controlling the well, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement.

Gas blowouts from shallow gas pockets have occurred previously on the North Slope. Methane hydrates are known to exist in the area and are believed to have contributed to previous shallow gas blowouts.

Repsol was drilling just below the permafrost layer on the slope, which extends to about the 2,000-foot depth across much of the area. Shallow gas pockets, some of them believed to be created by methane hydrates, exist in many places just below the permafrost.

11/11/2016 - 7:01pm