In accordance with a promise it made to the village of Nuiqsut prior to the start of its North Slope exploration program, Repsol E&P USA Inc. has suspended all its Alaska drilling operations as it continues to investigate the cause of a recent blowout at one of its four North Slope exploration pads.
“We have temporarily suspended our drilling operations in Alaska while we investigate the incident to fully understand the cause and to put in place preventative measures for future drilling operations,” Greg Smith, director of the U.S. Business Unit for the Spanish oil major told Petroleum News by email on Feb. 22. “The decision to continue drilling operations is subject to approvals from State of Alaska agencies and the North Slope Borough who have worked closely with us on the incident response.”
The Qugruk No. 2 well blew out on Feb. 15 when the exploration well hit a shallow gas pocket at around 2,500 feet en route to a deeper oil target at around 7,000 feet. The blowout sent some 42,000 gallons of fresh-water based drilling mud onto the ice pad and the surrounding snow-covered tundra, and vented an unknown amount of gas.
As of yesterday, response teams on the North Slope continued to work around the clock to secure the Qugruk 2 well, on an ice pad with the same name. The blowout occurred on Feb. 15; the well ceased flowing on Feb. 16.
—Eric Lidji & Kay Cashman
See story in Feb. 26 issue, available online at 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 24 at www.PetroleumNews.com