500-gallon spill shuts down some wells at Prudhoe Bay

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Crews were cleaning up a mixture of crude oil, natural gas and water that spilled from a pipeline in Prudhoe Bay. State regulators and BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. were investigating the spill, which was spotted Tuesday afternoon.

Walt Sandel, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, estimated the spill at 500 gallons, or about 12 barrels.

BP sent dozens of cleanup workers and much equipment to the scene of the spill, which came from a 24-inch pipe passing under a road at a caribou crossing. The company also shut down wells that feed into the pipeline.

The wells produce an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 barrels of crude oil a day, and there's no estimate of how long they will be shut down, said BP spokesperson Daren Beaudo. At current prices, that volume of oil is worth as much as $277,000 a day.

Prudhoe Bay and several other North Slope fields currently produce a total of about 1 million barrels of oil daily.

Corrosion could have caused the leak, Sandel said. Investigators planned to dig up the ruptured pipe for further investigation and repair. The leak was discovered by a BP contractor who noticed a sheen on puddles of water, said BP spokesperson Dave MacDowell.

''Right now our focus is on containment of the spill. That's priority one,'' MacDowell said. ''We'll then focus on the cleanup. We've got lots of equipment on site and heading to the site. We'll obviously have a rigorous investigation.''

No injuries to people or wildlife were reported. Alaska Clean Seas, a North Slope spill response cooperative, was on the scene with noisemakers to keep birds away from the spilled fluids.

About 40 BP and contract responders were at the site Tuesday, with an additional 40 coming Wednesday, MacDowell said.



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