SEMINOLE — Some Seminole residents will be displaced for an indefinite time period, as one area oil production company and local first responders continue to work on a blown out oil well.
According to Gaines County Sheriff Ronny Pipkin in a Tuesday morning interview with the Seminole Sentinel, no injuries were reported in the incident, which saw first responders from the Gaines County Sheriff’s Office, Seminole EMS and Seminole Volunteer Fire Dept. dispatched to an area near CR 107-I and CR 102 at 6:11 a.m.
“We have evacuated everyone from the immediate area for the time period and really don’t have a timetable on how long this incident will be taking place,” said Pipkin.
Tuesday morning’s incident occurred at Tabula Rasa Energy’s Essau 56-W well. Details of how the well had blown out was not readily made available to the Seminole Sentinel as of presstime Tuesday, as company officials, local first responders and company representatives with an Odessa-based well control company worked to assess the situation.
“This could be an ongoing situation which could last into the weekend,” said Pipkin, who added officials were scheduled to conduct well monitoring assessments throughout the day on Tuesday.
According to Pipkin, a pulling unit was situated at the well site and some unidentified personnel associated with a workover for Tabula Rasa, LLC were at the well site at the time of Tuesday morning’s incident.
In the wake of Tuesday morning’s incident, which has affected an estimated 50 people in the area, the Gaines County Civic Building has been opened to those who reside in the immediate area of the well blowout who have no other options to seek a safe haven. According to officials with the Gaines County Emergency Management office officials, roughly 20 homes were evacuated on Tuesday morning as a precaution to potentially dangerous hydrogen sulfide, also commonly known by its chemical abbreviation H2S.
According to emergency scanner traffic observed by the Seminole Sentinel during the course of Tuesday morning’s incident, H2S monitors in the immediate area of the well had readings of “80 to 90 parts per million.”
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, acute exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas causes a wide range of health effects, which include nausea, tearing of the eyes, breathing trouble and headaches at the 2 to 5 parts per billion range. Inhalation of higher concentrations of H2S could cause rapid unconsciousness and/or death.
In addition, hydrogen sulfide — a by-product of petroleum (oil, natural gas) — is a highly flammable, explosive gas, and can cause possible life-threatening situations if not properly handled. In addition, hydrogen sulfide gas burns and produces other toxic vapors and gases, such as sulfur dioxide.
Seminole resident Tony Ventura and his family, who reside within the evacuated area, were told they had five minutes to evacuate their house.
“We were told an oil wellhead had blown up and there was danger of harmful gas escaping,” Ventura said.
Beatrice Ventura, Tony’s wife, said she was worried about her 13 cockatiels and five dogs they had to leave behind.
The Ventura’s neighbors, Juan Hernandez and Elsa Gomez, live in a house situated directly across from the Tabula Rasa well and were in a sound asleep at the time of Tuesday morning’s incident
“We didn’t hear it when it blew,” said Hernandez, who spoke to the Seminole Sentinel at the Gaines County Civic Building on Tuesday morning.
Gomez added that in their rush to leave the residence, she had left behind her medication, which had to later be retrieved by local first responders.
In addition to the opening of the Gaines County Civic Center for displaced residents from Tuesday’s incident, the Seminole Rodeo Arena, located just east of the Seminole city limits, was opened up to displaced residents’ livestock until the area has been cleared by emergency responders.
According to Pipkin, officials with Wild Well Control — based out of Odessa — had been dispatched to the scene of the well blowout to assist Tabula Rasa officials in the incident.
The Sentinel, on Tuesday morning, made contact with a spokeswoman at Tabula Rasa Energy officials in their Houston corporate office, but was unable to speak to someone associated with the incident as of press time.
According to the company’s website, Tabula Rasa LLC was formed in June 2010 and operates various oil producing wells within the Permian Basin region.