CASPER, Wyo. -- Chesapeake Energy Corp. and its contractors on Friday stopped the flow of natural gas from an out-of-control well in eastern Wyoming, nearly three days after the well into the Niobrara Shale formation blew out and led 50 nearby residents to evacuate their homes.
Aided by a favorable wind that pushed gas away from the site, contractors pumped drilling mud into the well until the gas flow stopped, said Tom Doll, Wyoming's oil and gas supervisor.
He said he doesn't expect any further release of gas from the well, located about seven miles northeast of Douglas.
Chesapeake will monitor the situation over the weekend, continue to stabilize the well, then on Monday start cleaning the rig and well site, including spilled drilling mud and any other liquids that spewed from the well, Doll said.
"We'll be sampling the soil and making sure the cleanup's done correctly around the rig," he said. "I think we've been pretty fortunate in this particular incident that it was primarily dry natural gas, and the fact the rig didn't catch on fire was really remarkable."
Inspectors from Chesapeake, its contractors and the state will inspect the Trinidad Drilling Co. drill rig, blowout prevention equipment and the well itself to make sure everything is safe, Doll said.
State inspectors will then start investigating what went wrong at the well. Doll said it's still too early to tell what happened and the investigation could take some time.
"We don't think it's actually the blowout preventer, but we need to look at that well head," he said. "I know people are going to want to point a finger and place blame, but it's not something that's going to happen that quickly."
Chesapeake lost control of its Combs Ranch Unit 29-33-70-1H well about 4 p.m. Tuesday. None of the employees on-site were injured by the blowout, officials said.
While their air quality testing never indicated any problems, Chesapeake officials asked nearby residents to evacuate late Tuesday evening. Fifty spent three nights in Douglas and Casper hotels at Chesapeake's expense; 17 residents chose to stay home. Chesapeake spokeswoman Kelsey Campbell said residents could choose to continue their stays at the hotels.
Chesapeake and its contractors hoped to regain control of the well on Thursday but were hampered by variable and shifting winds that corralled natural gas in the area where crews needed to work.
Doll said the swift plugging of the well was "pretty amazing" due to the bad weather conditions.
"I applaud the efforts Chesapeake made because it was costing them a small fortune to postpone every attempt to pump this mud, but they waited until conditions were safe for their people."