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Mexico national oil/natural gas company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) said that an out-of-control gas-fed oil well fire about 5,000 meters below the surface may take up to eight weeks to put out.
There were no injuries and there is no endangerment to the public as the nearest population is more than a mile away from the well (Terra 123), which is about 12 miles north of Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco, according to Pemex.
Pemex's Carlos Morales Gil, director general for exploration and production, outlined a number of steps, including letting the fire burn, as a safety measure against a potential problematic gas cloud forming. He also is calling in international experts in dealing with well fires.
Morales Gil also said that a shaft valve's condition is being assessed to determine if it is operable for use in any subsequent attempts to snuff out the fire; drilling an adjacent well (Terra 121) for use as a relief well; and in coordination with the state of Tabasco arranging for various support activities for the surrounding communities, including preventive medicine teams.
Pemex told U.S. news media that the blaze is fueled by the associated natural gas at the oil well, which is a new one that had been producing 5,000 b/d and 150 MMcf/d of associated gas. The incident reportedly began last Sunday and then grew in scope by last Wednesday and is now estimated to take until to December to put out.
Morales Gil said every resource will be brought to bear on the fire, leading to the eventual capping of the well. An investigation of the cause of the well fire is now under way, Morales Gil said.
Mexico’s crude oil and condensate production peaked at 3,476 million boe/d in 2004. The country produced 2,593 million boe/d in 2012, about the same as it had in the previous three years.