Fatal Rig Explosion Update: Surge of Drilling Fluid to Blame

More than 100 barrels of drilling fluid poured out of a natural gas well before it ignited and killed five people, a volume of fluid that should have triggered alarms at the drilling site in Oklahoma, federal investigators said Thursday.

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The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, probing the January explosion on a natural gas drilling rig near Quinton, Okla., said it found that 107 barrels of oil-based drilling mud — the fluid pumped down the drill pipe during drilling operation to cool the drilling bit, remove particles and to keep petroleum products such as natural gas from escaping the well hole — flowed into the site’s mud pits between 7:57 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. on Jan. 22. That amount is far above the five to 10 barrels of drilling mud outflow threshold that is used to trigger an alarm at oil and gas operations, indicating that natural gas had flooded the well at dangerous levels, said the board’s lead investigator Lauren Grim. [Read More]

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