Cleanup nears completion after oil fire

Cleanup work at a WPX oil production facility near Nageezi, N.M., where a fire concluded on July 14 is expected to wrap up in the next couple of weeks.

The majority of damaged equipment has been removed from the site. Approximately 1,200 barrels of oil, produced water and waste liquids were recovered from the temporary storage tanks and other equipment.

WPX is excavating soil that was impacted by the fire. The company is working with the Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division on remediation plans.

WPX has met with the San Juan County Fire Department and San Juan County Emergency Management to review the overall response to the fire. The parties discussed resources and opportunities for additional training.

In the interest of reducing the possibility of a reoccurrence, WPX is voluntarily taking additional steps to improve safety during flowback operations when its new wells in the area start to produce. These actions include:

  • Replacing aluminum lines with steel lines
  • Increasing inspections on equipment
  • Increasing the amount of spacing between certain types of equipment
  • Filling and isolating storage tanks individually where possible

The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. WPX is working with agencies and third-party fire experts in this process. At this point, the fire appears to have been initially concentrated in a loading area for produced water. Further evaluation is needed, particularly with regard to identifying potential ignition sources.

Personnel working at the site when the fire started – along with residents who live near the five-acre property – were all safely evacuated. WPX provided lodging, meals and support to displaced residents throughout the event.

All six of the new oil wells at the site were safely shut-in at the onset of the fire. WPX is working to bring the wells back online this month. The oil and water produced from them will flow to permanent storage tanks located a half-mile away via underground gathering pipes.

WPX has briefed representatives with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (NMOCD), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Federal Indian Minerals Office (FIMO) and the Nageezi Chapter House on the next steps that will take place.

“Here’s what matters most – keeping people safe,” said Randy VanDenBerg, WPX district operations manager. “I’m talking about our neighbors, workers at our sites, and our own employees.”

“We have responsibly operated in this area for decades and we sincerely appreciate the support of the emergency responders and the understanding of the local community,” he added.

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