Weather Forecast


Crews work to regain control of an oil well

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – Crews are trying to regain control of an oil well south of Watford City after a blowout prompted 15 workers to flee for safety.

The oil well blowout occurred Thursday night after a piece of equipment failed at a well about seven miles north of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit, said Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms.

No injuries were reported. The initial release sprayed oil and produced water onto snow that is on top of the ice-covered Cherry Creek, Helms said.

Helms estimated the well is releasing about 200 barrels of fluid an hour, but it is now being contained to the well site, which is protected by a 3-foot berm.

“To the best of our knowledge, nothing has gotten into the water,” Helms said.

McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said the well remains out of control, but after the initial release the company was able to divert the oil and water to tanks that are on site.

“The best-case scenario happened,” Samuelson said.

The 15 workers who were on site at the time ran away from the well, leaving their pickups at the location, Samuelson said. The workers called the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office and Samuelson said he directed a school bus that was in the area to pick up the workers.

“When that thing blows, you just never know,” Samuelson said. “There’s a possibility of explosion.”

The crews had been working on a workover rig to clean out a producing oil well, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

Several state agencies, including inspectors from the Department of Mineral Resources and the North Dakota Department of Health, are responding to the scene.

“It’s being managed, but it’s not under control yet,” Helms said. “Until it is, it’s not a safe situation.”