At approximately 9 a.m. on the 15th of this month the Nabors Alaska Drilling rig experienced an event known as a blowout, they were drilling through the 2,525 feet mark when the encountered a pressurized gas pocket.
Officials identified the well as Qugruk 2 or Q2. The Q2 is located on land in the Colville River delta approximately 2 miles from the Arctic coastline. Plans for the Q2 called for a final depth of about 7,000 feet. At 2,525 feet on a well like Q2, drillers don't use the heavy blowout preventers, the depth is to shallow and there is no pipe to secure the blowout preventer to. Instead they use an item called a diverter. The diverter’s job is to route mud, gas, oil and water safely away from the rig in the event of a blowout. In the Q2’s blowout the diverters worked just as designed, possibly saving the crew from an explosion. None of the 76 workers on the rig were injured and no oil was spilled.
Nabors was drilling an exploratory well under contract to the Spanish oil company Repsol. Officials at Repsol immediately contacted Wild Well Control of Houston that was mobilized from a field office in Anchorage and its headquarters in Texas. When the blowout occurred the rig was evacuated after placing it in emergency shutdown.
A group of Repsol-North America officials were visiting the North Slope when the blowout occurred. Repsol is based in Madrid, Spain with its U.S. offices located in Texas. Repsol’s North American vice president for public affairs, Jan Sieving said it's going to be a very expensive incident for Repsol, well-control contractors don't come cheap, and the Nabors rig will be down quite awhile.
It was reported Friday by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said the Q2 well, 18 miles from the village of Nuiqsut, leaking gas and brackish water abated Thursday night on its own.
The Q2 after being shut down because of the blowout had frozen over in temperatures in the minus mid-teens.
Wild Well Control workers set up boilers outside the rig to generate steam to thaw mud, plumbing and access doors. Well control efforts will require the rig to operate. The rig’s drill cellar has frozen material several feet thick. Cleanup operations on the rig itself and downwind will have to await word that the well is controlled.
The DEC said in its 2 p.m. update on Tuesday Feb. 21st crews are unable to estimate how long it will take to complete the thawing operations.