Drilling Ahead

World Oilfield Forum

Chesapeake Energy Oklahoma Rig Fire-Nomac #17 Update

Jan. 7th, 2011

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 Chesapeake Rig Fire-Nomac Rig #17Sweetwater in far western Oklahoma where Nomac Rig #17, shortly after spudding in, blew out at a shallow 900' and burned to the ground.

(see our original story & video here)

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.



Nomac Employee Warns Us-NO PICTURES ALLOWEDChesapeake owned Hodges Trucking seems to have most of the rig equipment that survived the fire moved out away from the location.

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.

Workers Dismantle Nomac Rig #17

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.

Comment by Paul Tinnes on January 8, 2012 at 3:55am

Great coverage by Drilling Ahead for all of us, even better article bringing out better points to promote discussion about this incident.  Thank God that nobody was hurt, we all know that iron can and will be replaced and I can't help but think of how lucky we all are that the hands on location got to go home to their loved ones after that shift.  I can't help but be grateful in thinking that at any given moment there are hundreds of rigs in known formations containing hydrocarbons.  The men and women before us that have taught us how to control drilling operations surely couldn't have forecast such an event at 900'.  This is a new chapter in American oilfield history, lets keep our heads on as we move through this and write the next one.  Thank you Curtis for your coverage, your insight is valuable and your experience precious! Should have given that security guard a hug though, that might have helped.  LOL

Comment by Jeff Crawford on January 8, 2012 at 4:53am

Excellent coverage and commentary.

Good Job!

Comment by Galen Cox on January 8, 2012 at 7:09am

Great job in covering... Curtis! Too bad they lost the rig. Great that no one got hurt!

Comment by Chris Kirby on January 8, 2012 at 9:34am

Having been thru this exact scenario in 1990,I know how scary this is for the rig crew..Glad no one was hurt.Iron can be replaced.


Comment by Dale William Brady on January 8, 2012 at 10:26am

Im so glad no one was hurt during the initial mishap. I am a very Safety minded in every thing I do and when watching this video I dont understand why the companys Involved in removing the rig components from the site would let safety take a back seat. Look at the video around a minute into the video. Looks like someone climbing around the sub not being tied off. It takes all of us to look out for safety.

Comment by Budd Phillips on January 8, 2012 at 10:31am

Hi, why is casing being set so deep? Is the bed rock formation that deep? what about running diverters? you won't control the gas influx but you can divert it to flare and save the rig and reduce the potential of injury.

Comment by Chris Kirby on January 8, 2012 at 10:39am

Im sure a diverter system wiil be used in the area from now on..I feel it should be standard procedure on any deep surface job.It is not unusual to set casing to isolate the Dolomite in that area but ant time a water string is used,a diverter needs to be used.

Comment by Roger Woods on January 8, 2012 at 2:03pm

State of La. requires any surface set below 3000' has to have diverter system rigged up before spud if I am not mistaken


Comment by Audrey Kinnaman on January 8, 2012 at 11:54pm

At 900' and this close to the town of Sweetwater and their water tower(that's appears to be leaking) I would like to know how close this gas pocket could be to their water table and what and if there's a chance of contamination....just curious cuz I'm on the waterboard in a nearby community surrounded by rigs...is this our new concern? FYI...my husband and most of my family work in the oilfield industry so I understand when fracking zones they can communicate...


Comment by TERRY FRANK GARRETT on January 9, 2012 at 5:52am

Although this is extremely rare occurrence at this depth, I don't think it is fair for any of us to comment on this until all the facts are available. I have drilled many wells in western Oklahoma & if a surface diverter system was rigged up, some one with enough common sense & experiance would have had to close it. And remember a proper, diverter system is rigged up so that when the diverter closes, the 4" HCR valve opens. And also remember, at 900', things happen really fast. The personell on this rig, should be commended for not getting any one hurt or worse. The depths are so much deeper in the surrounding wells, and those completions & fracs are so much deeper and behind 2-4 strings  of casing that the chance of communication of those zones are almost completely out of the question. But the less this is talked about, by folks like us , who were not there, the better off our Industry & Chesapeake & Nomac are. The silly news media does not need any more ammo against us.

Comment by Audrey Kinnaman on January 9, 2012 at 9:12am

I really appreciate everybodys input.  As much as my family is oilfield, I am also a waterboard member.  There's very little information available in this case so I welcome anybody who would be willing to attend a waterboard meeting here to answer the recent concerns of the local communitites about how our water table may or may not be affected by local drilling or fracing.

Comment by Fred Holasek on January 9, 2012 at 11:06am

These shallow pressure anomalies are readily spotted on seismic lines through the wellbore.  This is a common procedure in many parts of the world.  All the procedure requires are seismic lines through the wellbore and trained personnel.  I am confident that Cheaspeake have the seismic lines and the personnel that can be trained.  No added expense to Cheaspeake.  Before many of you jump on my case, I understand this is not a routine procedure in Oklahoma.  I am just suggesting this procedure should be more common place in Oklahoma.

Comment by mike on January 9, 2012 at 2:29pm

 North East Ohio has Berea formation anywhere from 300' to 800'  quite a few rigs have perished in this formation.  As Utica Shale boom starts there,I hope this is being taken in to consideration.

Comment by darrin (arkansas) roper on January 9, 2012 at 3:13pm






You need to be a member of Drilling Ahead to add comments!

Join Drilling Ahead

Sign Up To Receive Special Offers
Sign Up Here

Oilfield Gifts

Oilfield Drill Pipe Tally Books


Oilfield Jewelry Drill Pipe Elevators


Oil and gas Gift Pump Jack Music Box



Oilfield Keychains


© 2015   Created by Drilling Ahead.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service