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Ruptured Seal Suspected As Cause of Oil Geyser, Cleanup Continues

July 8, 1986

HACKBERRY, La. (AP) _ The spectacular gusher of crude oil and brine that spurted as high as 200 feet above a U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve storage cavern probably was caused by a ruptured wellhead seal, officials say.

No injuries were reported Monday after the leak from West Hackberry cavern No. 3, part of the network of Texas and Louisiana salt domes where the Department of Energy keeps the national stockpile.

″The cavern, the pipe and everything in it was under pressure,″ Reserve spokesman Gu King explained. Nitrogen had been pumped into the cavern for three to four months to test the integrity of the cavern and its contents, he said.

″A seal connected to a wellhead - we don’t know exactly where - apparently failed,″ he said.

Workers capped the wellhead 11 hours later, after an estimated 2,000 barrels of crude and brine had spilled, the Energy Department said. According to a Reserve statement, the cavern contained about 9,500 barrels.

Some of the oil sprayed into nearby Black Lake, damaging vegetation, but much of it was contained by booms. King said some of the oil was contained by surround levees and can be recovered, but the cleanup should take a day or two.

The site in extreme southwest Louisiana is part of the 750-million gallon reserve ordered by Congress at the height of the Arab oil embargo in 1977, to ease the effect of possible disruption of U.S. petroleum supplies.

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