More than a week after it lost control of its Stalder 3UH Utica Shale well, Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. said specialists have stemmed the flow of natural gas by temporarily capping it.

The news was a welcome relief coming just before Christmas for about 50 residents living in 25 homes near the well in Monroe County, OH, who were first evacuated on Dec. 13 when Magnum subsidiary Triad Hunter LLC reported the blowout (see Shale Daily, Dec. 15). Local news media reports were increasingly featuring the outrage of the community, with Magnum Executive Vice President of Operations James Denny arriving on scene a few days after the incident to provide updates on Wild Well Control’s progress at the site.

The fix came earlier than expected. Late last week, both Denny and the local fire department had told reporters and residents that fixing the problem could take up to seven days because attempts to salvage the 3UH wellhead had failed, requiring Wild Well to replace it (see Shale Daily, Dec. 19; Dec. 17).

In its first update since the incident occurred, Magnum said Tuesday that attempts to push the well’s night cap back over the flange with an excavator and crane were unsuccessful. The pad is home to three other Utica wells and a Marcellus Shale well, too. The 3UH had been temporarily plugged to drill the other Utica wells, and when Triad Hunter resumed production operations on Dec. 13, workers were removing the night cap flange when a pressure disruption occurred and attempts to bolt it back down were unsuccessful before control of the well was lost.

Ultimately, Magnum said that Wild Well replaced the wellhead assembly, which required workers to cut individual casing strings for a new installation. The company said it doesn’t believe the well was damaged and added that the blowout did not affect the other wells on the pad. It anticipates putting the pad on production sometime next month and said its well insurance should cover its losses.

But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources also said Tuesday that it will conduct a full investigation to determine the cause of the blowout and “ensure proper mechanical integrity of the well before the company can move forward with operations.” It wasn’t clear, though, when that investigation would be completed.

The Stalder 3UH had been hailed by Magnum in February when it tested the well at a peak rate of 32.5 MMcf/d (see Shale Daily, Feb. 14). Financial analysts said the blowout would likely cut into the company’s year-end production as it has increasingly turned to the Appalachian Basin to drive its growth (see Shale Daily, Aug. 11).