Northstar gas line may start pumping next week

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Natural gas will soon be shipped through the first subsea pipeline system in the Alaska Arctic, helping power BP Amoco's development of its offshore Northstar oil field.

''We are now in the process of doing the last bits of work on the (gas) line and going through a final safety checklist,'' BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said Tuesday.

The gas will be piped from Prudhoe Bay to Seal Island, a manmade island built to serve as Northstar's drilling platform. It will heat living quarters and power the generator and parts of the drilling rig.

The Northstar oil and gas pipelines are each 17 miles long. For six of those miles, the pipelines are buried beneath the sea floor, making them the first of their kind in Alaska.

Crude is not expected to flow through Northstar's oil pipeline for another year. But the gas pipeline will likely see its first use sometime next week.

BP got the go-ahead for the pipeline operation last week from the Joint Pipeline Office, a consortium of state and federal regulators.

Greenpeace and some other environmentalists say Northstar's reliance on subsea pipelines, previously untested in these northern waters, is a threat to the Arctic ecosystem.

Greenpeace activists camped out on the Arctic ice near Northstar last winter, and last month boarded a taking equipment to the field. The fight against Northstar will go on, Greenpeace said this week.

''We're just going to keep shining the spotlight on their activities in the Arctic,'' said Greenpeace spokesman Dan Ritzman. He said the goal is to convince BP to pursue the development of renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels.

The Joint Pipeline Office has said that after three years of review it is convinced that the Northstar pipeline system, operated properly, could go its entire life without a leak.

JPO spokeswoman Rhea DoBosh said there were full-scale ''bend tests,'' , analogous to bending a soda can. ''The pipe held,'' she said. ''It didn't leak, it didn't rupture.''

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