Cleanup work continues at oil production site

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — Nearly one month after a fire at an oil production site near Nageezi forced residents from their homes, WPX energy is nearing the end of its cleanup work.

Crews inspect the WPX Energy oil production site that caught fire near Nageezi last month.

The company released an online update Wednesday detailing cleanup efforts and changes it is implementing to prevent similar incidents. WPX hopes to have the wells at the site operating again by the end of the month.

The water and oil produced by the wells will be transported using underground pipes to permanent storage tanks about half a mile from the site, according to the update.

Since the fire was extinguished on July 14, approximately 1,200 barrels of oil, produced water and waste liquids have been recovered from the temporary storage tanks that burned during the fire and from other equipment.

Company spokesman Kelly Swan said WPX is still assessing how much oil, water and waste liquids were in the equipment and tanks prior to the fire. He said it was more than 1,200 barrels, and the company is evaluating how much burned during the fire.

The cleanup efforts at the five-acre site include excavating the soil, and working with the Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division to develop remediation plans.

Due to concerns about similar incidents taking place, WPX is increasing the fire resistance at its new wells. Those efforts include replacing hoses and aluminum lines with steel lines.

"It adds a greater level of fire prevention," Swan explained.

The company will also increase equipment inspections and the spacing between certain types of equipment. It also plans on filling and isolating storage tanks individually, according to the online update.

Swan said it will likely be weeks or months before the investigation concludes. WPX is working with other agencies, as well as third-party fire experts, to investigate the cause of the fire. Investigators believe the fire initially was concentrated in a loading area for produced water, but the cause of the fire is still unknown, according to the online update.

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

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.