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Crews to thaw rig gear at Alaska well blowout site

Crews begin assembling gear to thaw out rig equipment at Alaska petroleum well blowout site By The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) ' Alaska environmental officials say air monitors show that no natural gas has accumulated at the site of an exploratory well blowout on Alaska's North Slope.

A crew drilling on a lease held by Repsol E&P USA Inc. on Wednesday penetrated a pressurized pocket of natural gas at 2,523 feet. The resulting kickback spewed out gas and an estimated 42,000 gallons of freshwater-based drilling fluid onto three acres.

Natural gas was diverted away from the drilling rig and the crew shut down all mechanized equipment to avoid igniting gas. The state Department of Environmental Conservation says the well stopped flowing Thursday night but no well control operations had begun by Friday afternoon.

Workers are rigging scaffolding, tarps and heaters needed to thaw hydraulics on rig equipment.

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