Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

March 11, 2014

Kingsley oil well erupts in flames

KINGSLEY — A mechanical problem likely sparked a spectacular eruption of flames from an oil and natural gas well near Kingsley, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official said.

Clean up at the Schumde Oil and Gas Company well began soon after Grand Traverse Rural firefighters extinguished the blaze on Sunday. Company officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Rick Henderson, field operations supervisor for the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals division, said the incident occurred after workers completed the well on March 4 and began flow tests to see whether it’d produce more oil or natural gas. He said oil went toward a flare meant to burn natural gas.

“Some oil escaped the separator out to where the flare was and caught fire,” he said.

Firefighters were dispatched at about 2 p.m. to the well near Clous and Schneider roads. The fire subsided about 40 minutes later, after crews cut off the natural gas and oil supply to the flare.

Henderson said he’s “reasonably sure” a mechanical problem is to blame, but DEQ inspectors still need to investigate the fire. He said it’s the company’s responsibility to clean any oil that sprayed from the flare and make sure no environmental damage occurred, a task made easier by the frozen ground.

“They’ll probably have to remove some soil,” he said. “We don’t know the full extent until they get into it.”

Henderson said cleanup is “pretty straightforward” and inspectors expect no lasting environmental damage.

No firefighters or workers were injured in the fire.

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