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Crews regain control of burning oil well near Roosevelt

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 1:39 p.m. MST

Flames erupt from a drilling rig at an oil and natural gas well north of Roosevelt on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. Crews reported a blowout at the well shortly after midnight. The escaping gases ignited just before 7 a.m., according to the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

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ROOSEVELT — Crews have extinguished the flames and regained control of an oil well that caught fire two weeks ago, forcing the evacuation of nearby homes.

Chip Minty, spokesman for Devon Energy, said work to contain the company's Bingham well was completed Monday night.

"Now that the well is contained, we will begin the process of determining the cause (of the incident) and assessing future operations at the site," Minty said.

Frontier Drilling had just finished sinking the well, which is operated by Devon, when a pocket of natural gas erupted from the well bore shortly after midnight on Jan. 22. Seven hours later, something ignited the free-flowing natural gas, causing a massive fire that led officials to evacuate three families living near the well.

Over the past two weeks, the blaze at the well site has alternated between small, flickering flames and towering jets of fire that were visible for more than a mile, causing some Roosevelt-area residents to wonder when the incident might end.

Devon officials never offered a definitive timeline for when the fire would be put out. That lack of a firm deadline was based on the company's commitment to safety, Minty said.

"The safety of our workers, our neighbors and the environment was our primary focal point throughout this process," he said. "Plans never extended beyond the next 24 hours, and we were taking what the well would give us. It was whatever safety dictated."

Devon did, however, provide state regulators with frequent updates on its progress, according to Division of Oil, Gas and Mining spokesman Jim Springer. The company is expected to file an incident report with the state within the next three weeks, Springer said.

"Then we'll have a meeting with them to determine what went wrong," he said. "We'll rely on Devon to inform us what the problem was, which they'll obviously want to figure out so this doesn't happen again."

The Bingham well was drilled to a depth of between 9,000 feet and 10,000 feet, Springer said, noting that regulators have been told there's still about 3,500 feet of drilling pipe underground.

"(Devon) will have to do some work before they can get the well up and producing," he said.

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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