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Southwest Louisiana ,

Small oil leak as boat hits wellhead near Port Sulphur

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 4:21 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Coast Guard said a 42-foot crewboat struck a shut-in wellhead Tuesday night in the Gulf of Mexico about nine miles southwest of Port Sulphur.

Well owner Swift Energy Co. of Houston said the well was intermittently burping oily water on Wednesday, probably from a damaged valve.

Company President Bruce Vincent said the wellhead about a mile offshore is ringed with containment boom, which also was set along the shore, and two skimmer boats were at work. Crews began ringing the wellhead Tuesday night, he said.

Vincent said only a small amount of oil appears to have escaped the well. The well was shut in about five years ago as a weak producer and the company planned to plug it this year, he said. Enough natural gas pressure had built up over five years to push out water mixed with a small amount of oil, he said.

"We don't know the exact rate of flow right now but would estimate it to be small," he said. "It flows for a while, then stops flowing until it builds up some pressure and flows again."

Nobody was injured on the crewboat Sea Raider, also owned by Swift, Vincent said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Carlos Vega said the accident happened about 8 p.m.

The site is about 50 miles west of where the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was drilling at the Macondo well when it exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers on the rig and setting off the nation's worst offshore oil disaster.

Capping the BP well was hampered by the force of oil and gas pushing out of the well — an estimated 200 million gallons of oil eventually escaped — and because the well was about a mile under the Gulf surface. It took months for engineers to stop oil from flowing into the Gulf.

The Swift well is in shallow water near shore.

Vincent said he expected repairs to be completed in a day or two.

A trial to determine responsibility for the BP spill is going on in U.S. District Court New Orleans, about 70 miles to the north of the Swift wellhead.

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