Natural gas from a well being drilled by Apache Corporation in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico has flowed underground, leading U.S. regulators to order the company to prepare to drill a relief well to control the flow if necessary, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Apache shut in the well on Feb. 5 after it had a "kick" upon encountering a zone of "abnormally pressured" natural gas while drilling, the company said in a statement on its website.

A kick commonly refers to a temporary loss of control over the well due to higher than anticipated pressures being encountered while drilling, leading to fluids or gas flowing into the well.

Non-essential personnel have been evacuated from the Ensco Plc drilling rig Ensco 87 and no gas or oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, Apache said.

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