A gas leak from a well in an oil field north of Ventura, CA, forced an evacuation of an industrial area and the closing of roads Thursday.
Workers were trying to disconnect a pipe from an idle well at Aera Energy when the leak occurred just north of Ventura’s west side, said Capt. Mike Lindbery, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.
No liquid was on the ground, but there was a vapor cloud near the oil well, which officials said had been idle about six years.
By late afternoon, a plan had been put in place to disperse the gas with large fans so crews could repair the leak. With the HazMat team on the scene, officials initially said they expected the leak to be secured sometime Thursday evening, but weather issues and equipment setup consumed more time than anticipated. The repair work began Thursday night and the leak secured by 10:30 p.m.
Emergency personnel continued to monitor the vapor cloud to determine whether the incident posed a threat to nearby residents and businesses, officials said. There were no injuries reported.
The leak started at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. As crews started the process of decommissioning the well, one of the pieces of equipment failed and gas started escaping from a crack in a pipe, said Michele Newell, an Aera spokeswoman.
Pressure in the well was rising and falling, but at some point, more gas began to leak.
“There’s a valve that would normally shut it down,” Newell said. But in this case, because of where the crack was, the valve didn’t work.
That left the company to come up with another plan to try to shut off the gas. Newell said a team responded from Aera’s Bakersfield headquarters to help.
It was unclear how much gas released.
Lindbery said the Ventura County Fire Department learned of the leak Thursday morning after Aera notified Ventura County’s Office of Emergency Services.
Newell said Aera contacted the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District on Wednesday shortly after they discovered the leak. Aera also notified the California Division of Oil and Gas on Wednesday, she said. The company decided to notify the Office of Emergency Services on Thursday because the leak could not be fixed.
“We did it out of an abundance of caution,” she said.
Workers brought in large fans to disperse the gas near the oil field, officials said late Thursday.
Authorities closed Ventura Avenue between Dakota Drive and Crooked Palm Road, as well as northbound and southbound off ramps from Highway 33.
Businesses under an evacuation order were south of Shell Road and east of North Ventura Avenue.
The road closures lifted about 8 p.m. and the evacuation order lifted about 11 p.m., officials said.
Representatives from the Air Pollution Control District and Ventura County Division of Environmental Health responded to the scene and worked with others to monitor air quality.
Newell said Aera has had air monitors around the perimeter of the area since Wednesday afternoon and saw no indications of hazardous gas levels immediately outside the area of the leak.
Aera Energy LLC is jointly owned by Shell and Exxon Mobil. It operates across 4,300 acres and produces more than 13,000 barrels of crude oil and 7.5 million cubic feet of natural gas every day out of 414 wells.