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Apache Gets U.S. Approval for Plugging Work in Gulf

Apache Corp., the largest independent U.S. oil company based on market value, said the government approved a permit to resume plugging and abandonment operations at a platform in the Gulf of Mexico that was near what regulators call a natural-gas leak.

The East Cameron Block 278 Platform B gas processing platform was evacuated Jan. 16 after workers reported what looked like gas bubbling to the surface of the water, according to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Related pipelines and facilities were shut.

Air monitoring located no trace of gas emissions on the facility, Houston-based Apache said today in a statement on its website. Patrick Cassidy, an Apache spokesman, said today in a telephone interview that he couldn’t speculate on the source of the bubbling.

Apache workers have boarded the platform to seek to contain the source of the gas leak, the U.S. bureau said in an e-mailed statement today. The government said a remotely operated vehicle will monitor conditions to make sure work can occur safely.

The platform is more than 90 miles (145 kilometers) off Louisiana in about 170 feet of water, the bureau said. Apache has said wells connected to the platform hadn’t been in production for several years, and the company had started plugging and abandonment work when a “water disturbance” was seen on Jan. 16.

Relief Well

The bureau said today that, in accordance with its direction, Apache is continuing preparations for drilling a relief well to stop the leak in the event the platform procedures don’t succeed. Apache on Jan. 18 called talk of a relief well “premature.” The company’s statement today described the area as a “depleted natural gas field.”

The company has a 50 percent working interest in the platform. Stone Energy Corp. has the remaining stake.

Apache fell 2 cents to $124.16 as of 4:11 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Stone declined 55 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $22.01.

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