Spill from leaking oil well contained near Green River

Published: Friday, May 23 2014 2:55 p.m. MDT

State and federal regulators are trying to determine what caused a valve to fail on an oil well operated by Utah-based SW Energy near Green River on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The valve failure caused water tainted with hydrocarbons to spray onto the ground, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The leak was stopped Thursday, May 22, 2014, and cleanup efforts were underway Friday, May 23, 2014.

Utah DOGM

GREEN RIVER, Emery County — State and federal regulators are trying to determine what caused a valve to fail on an oil well near Green River, allowing water tainted with hydrocarbons to run into a dry wash.

The problem was reported Wednesday by employees of SW Energy, according to Jim Springer, spokesman for the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.

The small, Utah-based company contacted state regulators who passed the information along to the Bureau of Land Management, which has jurisdiction over the land where the well is located, Springer said.

BLM workers were sent to the Salt Wash field about 12 miles southeast of Green River to investigate the leak and help with containment, said Beth Ransel, manager of the agency's field office in Moab.

"It was a pretty rapid response," Ransel said, noting that representatives from SW Energy, the BLM, the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Quality and private companies worked together to stop the leak just before 1:25 p.m. Thursday.

The contaminated water, which regulators believe was coming up through the wellbore, was laced with "a very minimal amount of hydrocarbon" and other subsurface material, Springer said. None of the water reached the Green River, Ransel said.

SW Energy has called in a private contractor to cleanup the spill, Ransel said. Those crews were expected to arrive Friday.

Regulators are still trying to figure out what caused the valve to fail.

"There was an unusual amount of pressure in the well," Ransel said, "so there will be further investigation."

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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