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Gas rig explosion to be scrutinised

28 September 2011

Authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding a natural gas rig explosion that recently occurred southeast of Watonga in Blaine County, Oklahoma, USA.

Image courtesy of Patterson-UTI Drilling
Image courtesy of Patterson-UTI Drilling

The rig, owned and operated by Patterson-UTI Drilling, was contracted by Continental Resources to drill for natural gas at the Moseley 1-5H location in the Anadarko Woodford formation.

Blaine County Sheriff Ricky Ainsworth has said that the rig’s workers were able to flee before the explosion and there were no injuries. Blaine County Sheriff’s Office and Watonga Fire and Rescue responded to the ensuing blaze, assisted by fire departments from Canton, Watonga, Hitchcock, Okeene, Greenfield and Geary, as well as Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Ainsworth added that most of the fire departments and law enforcement personnel were released within two hours, because “…there wasn’t much that could be done at the time.” He confirmed that the fire remained contained to the drilling location.

Authorities blocked off roads within one mile of the rig but the evacuation radius was later extended to two miles.

Watonga residents reported hearing the explosion and seeing flames from more than three miles away.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Juan Rodriguez said that OSHA had an investigator at the scene.

“At this point we don’t really know the extent of our investigation into this incident,” Rodriguez said, adding: “But in general we would be looking for violations, trying to determine the cause and interviewing eyewitnesses and employees.”

OSHA will have up to six months to complete its investigation.

Bureau of Land Management public affairs specialist Paul McGuire has confirmed that it will also be involved in the investigation. BLM has jurisdiction to join the investigation because the well was drilled into American Indian-owned mineral interests.

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