Oil Well Blowout Reported in Gaines County, Evacuations in Effect

Oil Well Blowout Reported in Gaines County, Evacuations in Effect

GAINES COUNTY, TX (KWES) - More than 40 people were evacuated from a 2-square-mile area east of Seminole following an oil well blowout Tuesday morning at Highway 80 and County Road 107-I, officials said.

No injuries were reported.

The well head blew off at 6:11 a.m., according to Gaines County investigators, and released clouds of toxic fumes containing hydrogen sulfide (H2S).

The colorless, flammable gas occurs naturally in crude petroleum and is "extremely hazardous," according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The hydrogen sulfide concentration of the well prior to the incident is unknown.

"H2S will kill you," said Gaines County Sheriff Ronny Pipkin. "That's just the bottom line... We're lucky nobody was hurt."

The well is operated by Houston-based Tabula Rasa Energy, he confirmed.

Company representatives did not return calls from NewsWest 9 for comment.

Gas continued billowing out of the well site, about 4 miles east of Seminole and 1.5 miles north of Highway 80, hours after the initial blowout.

Authorities have yet to determine what led to the pressure control failure that resulted in the forceful eruption of toxic fumes.

Witnesses familiar with oilfield equipment told NewsWest 9 the well had a "surface casing rupture" and "flowback issues." Carbon dioxide (CO2) reportedly "froze the flowback equipment" and led to a dangerous build-up of pressure in large concentrations of CO2 and H2S gas.

"This is not going to be a quick fix," Pipkin said. "We do have folks out there... monitoring it with H2S gas monitors to ensure [the gas] doesn't go out of this [2-square-mile evacuation] area."

The "danger zone" will likely expand if wind patterns change, he added.

Evacuees may be unable to return home for several days, officials said.

The Seminole Sentinel reported Tuesday evening Tabula Rasa "will offer local hotel rooms for displaced residents who have no other option for temporary relocation."

Pipkin said evacuees are also welcome to seek shelter at the Gaines County Civic Center, located at 402 NW 5th St.

Residents spoke out on social media about the dangers of living adjacent to blowout-prone oil wells.

Mary Trevino described the CR 107-I well as being situated in her "backyard" and claimed similar incidents had shaken their neighborhood in the past.

"It's not the first time or the last time, I'm more [than] sure," she commented on NewsWest 9's Facebook page. "I wish Tabula Rasa was out of there... [Too] many mistakes already."