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Investigators are still trying to understand the cause of an out-of-control oil well that spewed an orange-colored mix of gas, oil and saltwater as high as 50 feet into the air Thursday near Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.

Kyle Waliezer, Rockies area superintendent for Slawson Exploration Co., said an equipment malfunction caused workers to lose control of the well Wednesday night. There were no injuries in the incident.

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Crews on Friday regained control of the oil well and the cleanup process has begun.

When the blowout first occurred, workers tried to gain control so as a quick stop gap measure, they lowered a backhoe bucket over the wellhead, capping the spew and forcing all the escaping liquids to remain inside a containment berm around the well.

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The Slawson Exploration well is 10 miles southwest of Parshall, ND.

Waliezer said they pulled the bucket off the well later Thursday afternoon because of fire and safety concerns. Crews then started to prep the location to get the well under control, he said.

Slawson called in Wild Well Control of Houston, and five of its crew were at the scene. The blowout roared as the escaping gassy liquids exited through a 2 3/8th inch pipe under very high pressure.

Waliezer said well control was lost at about 6 p.m. Wednesday during a workover rig operation conducted by Magna Energy Services.

Waliezer said he doesn’t yet know what failed during the workover operation. He said the well had been in production for about a month and is among 20 Slawson wells in the immediate area and 300 in North Dakota.

Vacuum pumpers were removing spilled liquids from inside the berm around the well and there was no off-site runoff other than the plume spray. As a precaution, the company built an emergency berm between the well and the lake. The closest lake water is about 1 ½ miles from the well, he said.

Kris Roberts, state Health Department environmental engineer, said well records will detail out how much oil, gas and saltwater spilled during the blowout.

The escaped oil pumped out of the berm is of good quality and will be salvageable, Waliezer said.

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