PARSHALL, N.D. – An oil well that began to malfunction Wednesday evening continues to spray a mist of oil into the air but is expected to be contained Friday morning, an official at the scene says.
The mist appeared to be contained shortly after 3 p.m. today. Crews used the bucket of a backhoe to cover the mist and keep it from blowing up into the air, said Kris Roberts, environmental geologist with the North Dakota Department of Health.
But the risk of a static spark that could start a fire was too high, so crews removed the equipment about 4 p.m. and the mist continues to spray to the north, Roberts said.
“One spark would have been one way too many,” he said.
About 6 p.m. today, crews were closing down for the day because it was getting too dark, Roberts said. They will resume working Friday morning, he said.
The well is not causing any danger to public health and there was no need for evacuations, Roberts said.
Kyle Waliezer, Rockies area superintendent for Slawson Exploration Co., said a crew was working on the well about nine miles west of Parshall between 6 and 7 p.m. Wednesday when an equipment malfunction occurred.
The malfunction, which is still under investigation, caused the workers to lose control of the well, Waliezer said.
A specialized team from Houston flew to North Dakota Wednesday night to get control of the well, but a brownish mist, occasionally surging higher than the top of the service rig, continues to spray into the air. They will continue their work on Friday.
Lake Sakakawea, less than one mile to the south of the well, was not in danger of being affected, Roberts said.
The well is spraying oil, gas and water containing brine, Roberts said. The mist drifted more than 2,000 feet to the southwest of the well before the wind shifted, he said. The mist is now spraying to the north and Roberts estimates it has affected an area of about 1,500 feet.
Cleanup crews would not begin working until the well was contained, Roberts said.
No one was injured in the incident, Waliezer said.
Slawson hired a firm to monitor gas levels in the area to ensure the safety of nearby residents, Waliezer said.
Workers constructed dikes around the well site to contain the spill, Roberts said.
“They’ve done an excellent job of trying to make sure they’re safe and contained,” he said.
Prior to the incident, the well had been in production, but a workover rig, or service rig, was brought in to clean out sand and improve production, Waliezer said.
The state Department of Mineral Resources and other agencies also are on the scene investigating.
A safety officer from the Three Affiliated Tribes energy division also was monitoring the well, which lies within the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.