Spill delays Appomattox drilling "a few weeks": Shell

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2011 6:28 PM

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Drilling at Shell's Appomattox prospect in the Gulf of Mexico will be delayed a few weeks to repair a drilling fluid booster line that leaked Sunday, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

"Repairs could take a few weeks," Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said. "We will not resume drilling until the repair is completed."

Workers will pull the riser, the portion of the drill stem between the sea floor and the drilling rig, because the leaky line is alongside it. Casing in the well bore below the sea floor will stay in place.

"We'll pull the riser in order to evaluate the line and make the appropriate repair," the spokeswoman said.

The leak on Sunday spilled 13,000 gallons of drilling fluid at the site about 70 miles off the Louisiana Coast southeast of the Mississippi River mouth.

Transocean's Deepwater Nautilus was drilling a sidetrack at Appomattox Well No. 5 when the incident occurred.

The location is 26 miles southeast of BP Plc's Macondo blowout, which killed 11 workers, sank Transocean's Deepwater Horizon and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of crude.

Shell was one of the first companies to receive permission to resume drilling after BP's Macondo accident resulted in a moratorium to tighten drilling regulation.

Appomattox is located in Mississippi Canyon Block 348 in water depth of more than 7,000 feet. Shell is operator and 80 percent owner. Nexen Inc owns 20 percent.

(Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)