Disaster averted offshore Louisiana

July 26, 2013 at 9:40 AM

NEW ORLEANS, July 26 (UPI) -- Energy companies and authorities responding to the collapse of drilling rig off Louisiana are lucky the incident is resolved, a former regulator said.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced Thursday a failed well leaking natural gas off the coast of Louisiana had "bridged over," or sealed because of well interference from sand and sediment.

Walter Oil and Corp. told authorities Tuesday morning it lost control of a natural gas well while making production preparations. A natural gas plume ignited Tuesday evening and, by Wednesday, part of a rig owned by Hercules Offshore had collapsed.

The BSEE reported Thursday the flare had dwindled to a small flame by Thursday evening. The agency said Walter submitted an application to drill a relief well, which would close the leak.

Bud Danenberger, a former regulator at the Minerals Management Service, told the Houston Chronicle's Fuel Fix section the sediment intervention likely averted further disaster.

"They are lucky," he said.

Bridging is a relatively common occurrence as most wells are held open through artificial means.

The BSEE said the structural integrity of the rig remains intact. Light sheen was seen on the water's surface, though regulators said it was dissipating quickly.

No injuries were reported in the incident 55 miles off the Louisiana coast.

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