MENTONE, Texas – A buildup of pressure caused an explosion as workers were changing a wellhead Wednesday at a West Texas oil field, killing two of them and injuring nine others, a sheriff said.
Loving County Sheriff Billy Hopper said authorities received an emergency call before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday about the explosion some 60 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M.
The two workers who were killed died at the scene, he said. Their names have not been released. Hopper said all of the nine workers who were hurt had minor injuries and did not go to a hospital.
It was not clear Wednesday which company operates the oil field, he said.
Initial reports indicated the workers were operating an oil rig, but Hopper later clarified they were using heavy machinery to switch out the wellhead.
“Those wellheads are tremendously heavy pieces of equipment,” he said, explaining they can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
He said receiving updates from his deputies at the scene was difficult because radio communications are erratic and cellphones don’t work in the rural area.
Loving County is the most sparsely populated county in the United States, he said, and many oil fields are in far-flung locations that can be difficult to reach.
The energy boom in Texas and other parts of the U.S. is evident in Loving, he said, with fresh oil fields sprouting up.
“This is the first accident we’ve had like this in about a year,” Hopper said.