Crews in North Dakota are working to seal a leaking oil well. According to the Associated Press, officials are calling the leak, the result of a well blowout, the worst in the state since it saw a resurgence of the gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The leak was first reported Wednesday about 2 1/2 miles southwest of Killdeer. The well sets atop the Killdeer Aquifer, the source of drinking water in the area. According to the Bismarck Tribune, crews are now working to plug the well with three cement caps injected at depths between 8,000 and 9,000 feet.
Sanjel Corp., of Canada, was conducting the fifth of a 19-stage fracture, each one injecting 370,000 gallons of water and gel chemicals at 8,000 pounds per square inch of pressure when the blowout occurred, the Bismarck Tribune said.
A spokesperson for Denbury Onshore, which was leasing the well, said it continued leaking about two barrels of mostly water each minute on Thursday morning, according to the Associated Press. As of yesterday morning, 1,007 barrels of water and 125 barrels of oil had been recovered. The Bismarck Tribune is reporting that a total of 2,000 barrels of oil and fluid have so far leaked from the well.
The leak occurred when steel and concrete casing within the wellbore failed, according to the Associated Press. The leak is said to be confined to the drilling pad. A protective dike was built Wednesday to keep oil from a nearby creek.
The state health department said monitoring wells would be drilled by the end of the week to test groundwater in the area. The state’s director of the Department of Mineral Resources told the Bismarck Tribune that only one of the chemicals used in the fracking fluid, potassium hydroxide, is toxic. However, he maintained it did not pose a risk at the dilution ratio used in the fracking fluid. He also maintained that the Killdeer Aquifer flows less than one foot a day, so it would take decades for any contamination to reach the community’s drinking wells. If needed, he said the aquifer would be remediated.
The state’s investigation of the incident will focus on whether or not pressure testing regulations instituted only two years ago were being followed at the site, the Bismarck Tribune said.