BP Alaska fined for delays installing Prudhoe Bay leak detection system

Posted: Wednesday, June 05, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- BP Alaska has agreed to pay a $300,000 fine for delays encountered in installing a leak detection system on its crude oil transmission pipelines at Prudhoe Bay.

The oil giant is seriously behind schedule in installing and testing the system, DEC Commissioner Michele Brown said in a press release Tuesday.

''Leak detection systems provide early warning of spills and can prevent major spills. This agreement requires BP to make reliable pipeline leak detection a priority,'' Brown said.

In 1997, the state adopted new requirements that crude oil transmission pipelines be equipped with a leak detection system that can detect a leak of at least 1 percent of daily flow.

Two years later, DEC required the systems at Prudhoe Bay as part of its approval of the ARCO Alaska and BP oil spill contingency plans.

The requirement applied to transmission lines only, and not to gathering and processing lines.

According to regulators, BP officials understood the requirement to apply to the 1 percent flow for all the transmission pipelines combined. However, DEC required the 1 percent requirement for each line.

The state's interpretation of the law provided for a higher degree of protection, DEC said. But it also was more difficult to accomplish technically because it meant that the retrofit had to be applied to each segment of pipe, said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell.

''To go in and retrofit 25-year-old facilities with systems of this type is something that requires some thought,'' he said.

BP has been making a solid effort to get the job done, but the fine was levied to remind the company that the leak detection system was important, said Jeff Mach, DEC's oil and gas coordinator.

''We felt like the fact that they are so long out of compliance, we did need to provide a little more inducement,'' he said.

Chappell said as far as he knows there has never been a leak from any of BP's transmission lines at Prudhoe Bay.

Transmission lines were chosen because a leak from one of them is more likely to result in a large spill, Mach said. The lines deliver sales quality crude from the processing facilities to Pump Station 1.

The initial leak detection proposal came from ARCO and BP before the companies merged. DEC determined in December 2000 after the merger that BP's proposal would not meet the 1 percent standard.

The oil company resubmitted a plan that adhered to the state's interpretation that the system be based on each transmission line. DEC approved the plan in March 2001.

BP faced another delay when doing the work last year when sediment was discovered in the transmission lines. The sediment had to be removed by cleaning the lines with machines called ''pigs'' because otherwise it would affect the accuracy of the new meters.

Chappell said BP had expected to get the work done by December 2001 but now was looking at December 2002.

''We are very pleased to have the agreement in place and are working hard to have a working, upgraded leak detection system installed on these pipelines before year's end,'' Chappell said.

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