World Oilfield Forum
48 hours after a drilling rig blast that left the drilling industry in shock, Drilling Ahead decided to revisit the Chesapeake Energy location NW of Sweetwater in far western Oklahoma where Nomac Rig #17, shortly after spudding in, blew out at a shallow 900' and burned to the ground.
Despite objections by Nomac employees and a few tense moments with Chesapeake Energy security who object to photos and videos being made public, we were able to get a few pictures and video clips for our update.
Burned derrick sections were being loaded on winch trucks and moved. All that remains intact and in view of the 1500 HP Top Drive equipped drilling rig is a scorched substructure, top doghouse and twisted A-Legs sections.
The fire continues to burn a lazy flare sometimes 10-12' above the blackened drilling rig floor.
Many Ask "How Could This Happen?"
In Chesapeake's defense there is actually nothing that could have been done to predict the presence of this natural gas before drilling started or to control the gas after encountering it at just 900'.
Surface casing in the area is usually set deep around 5000'-5500' to seal off the always thirsty dolomite . Blowout preventers require that the surface casing be set and cemented in place before blowout prevention equipment can even be installed. Surely precautions will be developed before drilling future wells in the area to prevent this from happening again.
As for gaining control of the well, from all appearances the plan seems to be to let the fire burn itself out as the shallow charged natural gas formation either gives up its contents of hydrocarbons or eventually bridges off.
The stubborn flame continues to burn at the rig floor 2 days later, raising even more questions with the locals about just how the gas got there in the first place.
Some in the drilling industry locally think natural gas was able to reached this shallow depth just below the surface as a result of previously fracked wells in the area.
A look around shows several producing Chesapeake wells near the location and as close as 1/4 mile.
Others are saying the occurrence of natural gas has to be the result of some parted well casing from a nearby well.
Encountering air pockets in the area are rare but not unheard of. Stories circulate about rigs that have encountered these shallow air pockets in the past, emptying the hole of red bed mud in seconds.
Nobody can recall ever hearing of a drilling rig encountering natural gas at 900', blowing out and burning down.
Still there is an equal chance that this was just a rare naturally occurring phenomenon in an industry that sees many.
One Thing Is Certain
Those who oppose drilling & fracking in America are sure to have a field day putting their spin on the presence of this pressurized natural gas zone at just 900'-without any evidence or study & will declare this the smoking gun in their argument against drilling for hydrocarbons anywhere in America.
It's obvious why those involved would want this kept quiet and out of the news.
The Oil and Gas industry has truthfully provided information throughout the past concerning how we drill and complete wells while those that oppose drilling continue to fabricate their "facts" or fund studies that are biased to support their anti drilling positions.
Anything less than a transparent and through investigation into this rare event is sure to be used as "proof" by these self proclaimed environmentalist that we as an industry have something to hide.
Hopefully Chesapeake Energy and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission officials will take the necessary steps by logging nearby existing wells to determine casing integrity and by running complete surface logs of new wells to see if this shallow pressurized zone can be identified as naturally occurring or caused by a production problem, then make the results transparent and public.
Anything less will just fuel the fires of those opposed to drilling.