It may be a while before British Petroleum's "pig" gets to muck its way through an undersea oil pipeline.
Last month, BP announced it was set to begin an operation to clean out an abandoned Cook Inlet oil pipeline. The pipe was responsible for an oil sheen that appeared on the inlet last summer.
BP had planned to force what's called a pig, a specialized mixture of gel and foam, through the pipe in order to cleanse the line of any residual petroleum product. However, the plan had to be put on hold because a hole was discovered in the pipe, according to BP spokesperson Dan Ferriter.
"We were all set up to do it. Before we got started, we wanted to do a continuity check," he said.
Ferriter said technicians pumped compressed air through the pipe to make sure there were no leaks. When the pressure was turned up, the leak was discovered.
He said the hole wasn't previously spotted because the pipe is covered with sand. Response boats and aircraft were on-scene during the test, and no oil was reported to have leaked into the ocean.
Ferriter said the glitch wasn't totally unexpected, given that the pipe has been abandoned for 20 years.
"It's not a huge surprise," he said.
However, the operation will be put on hold until engineers can work out a new plan, in light of the leak.
"It's kind of back to the drawing board now," Ferriter said.
He said BP had several options available for reformulating its plan to clean the pipe. He said the company would begin work on a new plan today. Ferriter said he didn't know how long it would take for a new plan to be implemented.
"We're probably at least three to four weeks away," he said.
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