One Killed, 3 Hurt in U.S. Oil Well Explosion
One worker has died and three were injured in a fire at a McKenzie County oil well site over the weekend, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday.
Crews were working on a workover rig on a well about 8 miles east of Watford City when the well ignited about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, said Eric Brooks, director of the Bismarck area OSHA office.
The owner of the well, XTO Energy, described the incident as a “flash fire.”
Johnny Stassinos, 52, Rock Springs, Wyo., died from his injuries Saturday afternoon at Trinity Hospital in Minot, the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office said.
Daniel Montes, 28, Fruita, Colo., and Richard Maheu, 27, Rock Springs, Wyo., suffered serious burns and were in critical condition at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, the sheriff’s office said.
Justin Pyle, 40, Grand Junction, Colo., was treated and released for minor injuries from McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Hospital in Watford City, officials said.
Two of the injured workers suffered third-degree burns on more than 70 percent of their bodies and one suffered burns to his face, Brooks said.
The workers were employees of Most Wanted Well Service and SEI Well Service, said Emily Snooks, a spokeswoman for XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp.
OSHA has launched an investigation and an inspector will be at the site Monday, Brooks said.
XTO has also formed an investigation team to determine the cause of the incident, Snooks said.
“We are greatly saddened by this tragic incident, and we express our deepest sympathy to the workers and the families of those affected,” Snooks said.
Alison Ritter, spokeswoman for the Department of Mineral Resources, said crews were working on a well that had been fracked when the well “experienced a kick of gas” on Saturday morning.
When deputies arrived on scene, the fire was out, authorities said. First responders provided basic first aid on scene. One victim was airlifted from the scene and two were transported from the Watford City Airport, the sheriff’s office said.
A workover rig is smaller than a drilling rig and is used for well completions and maintenance.
The incident did not cause any oil or other contamination to leave the well location, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
This is the first oil and gas fatality OSHA has investigated in North Dakota in 2016, Brooks said.
This also is the second incident involving Most Wanted Well Service in the past five years, Brooks told The Bismarck Tribune.
According to OSHA data, Most Wanted Well Service was fined $2,800 for a “serious” violation Nov. 23, 2015, on another XTO site 4 miles south of County Road 53 near Watford City, where an employee suffered fractures and lacerations after falling from a work platform during a blowout. The company had not provided an “escape line” from the platform.
XTO was not cited in the incident and the case was closed March 8.
In both the most recent incident and the November 2015 incident, Most Wanted Well Service was “snubbing” wells, which involves putting drillpipe into the wellbore while the well is under pressure. Ritter said the practice is common in the Bakken formation. When snubbing is not required, the pipe would go in under its own weight with no additional downward force.