Natural gas drilling rig burns near Rulison | AspenTimes.com

Natural gas drilling rig burns near Rulison

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Garfield County Sheriff's OfficeFire crews from Rifle and the Grand Valley Fire Protection District " along with officials from the Garfield County Sheriff's Office " responded to this drilling rig fire south of the Colorado River and east of Rulison about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. The fire continued to burn throughout the day and into the evening.

RULISON, Colo. ” A fire erupted early Wednesday from a natural gas drilling rig near Rulison and flames still were burning the rig late into the day.

There were no injuries, and the fire was contained to the wellpad, said Mike Morgan, the Rifle Fire Protection District chief.

Fire crews from Rifle and the Grand Valley Fire Protection District ” along with officials from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office ” responded to the drilling rig fire south of the Colorado River and east of Rulison about 1:30 a.m., Morgan said.

Williams Production RMT is the operator in control of the gas field where the incident occurred. It contracts with Cyclone Drilling to drill there.

Susan Alvillar, a spokeswoman for Williams, said workers at the rig were drilling at about 6,800 feet into a “gas-bearing zone” when the fire erupted.

“When you do that, there is a chance that the gas can come up the [well] at a high pressure,” she said. “We believe that is what happened here, but we will have to do a very thorough investigation to make sure that is actually what happened.”

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Alvillar said the crew at the scene was trained well enough to notice the warning signs on the rig, and that the “crew saw those warning signs.”

“They were able to evacuate the rig in time, and there were no injuries,” she said.

Alvillar said company officials and crews at the scene spent much of the day developing a safe plan to divert flames away from the rig and put water on the structure. She said since there was so much work involved to contain the fire, it was difficult to give an estimate when it could be brought under control.

“It takes a lot of time and patience to make sure it is done safely,” she said.

Halliburton Energy Services officials were at the scene assisting with fire suppression efforts, Alvillar said. A Williams emergency response team also responded to the fire at the drilling rig, she said.

Alvillar also said it was too early to estimate the monetary damages caused by the fire.

The flames from the rig fire could be seen from Interstate 70, prompting a number of motorists to pull to the shoulder to watch.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, according to the sheriff’s office.

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