December 22, 2009 --- Vol. 15, No. 99December 2009

Pipe breaks, spilling oil at Prudhoe Bay drill site

A six-inch production line carrying oil, water and natural gas from a well head at drill site six in the Prudhoe Bay field has broken apart spraying oil onto the drill site gravel pad. According to a situation report from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, a BP operator discovered the spill at 10:30 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 21.

BP spokesman Steve Rinehart told Petroleum News today that the pipe had ruptured at a weld and that the operator had observed fluid spraying from the break.

“The (well) surface safety valve immediately shut the thing down, so it basically just sprayed and stopped,” Rinehart said.

At this stage, the cause of the pipeline failure is unknown.

According to ADEC, the force of the fluid release demolished the back of the well house and blew open the front doors. A misting of crude oil varying in intensity from light to heavy has impacted an estimated 12,000 square feet of the gravel pad, with some oil mist reaching the snow-covered tundra at the side of the pad, ADEC said.

A unified command has been activated to respond to the spill and as of yesterday afternoon a response team was on site delineating the spill area. The response team has confirmed that the leak has stopped and that it is safe to work at the site, Rinehart said.

Eastern slope opens for tundra travel

The eastern coastal area of the North Slope opened for tundra travel at 8 a.m. today.

This is the second of the four North Slope areas to open; the western coastal area opened Dec. 17. The upper and lower Foothills areas remain closed.

The Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water said soil temperatures and snow cover within the eastern coastal area have now met the criteria for opening, which is six inches of snow and a soil temperature colder than minus 5 degrees C at a depth of 30 centimeters.

State Beaufort Sea sale set for Feb. 24

The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas said Dec. 20 that it will hold a Beaufort Sea areawide oil and gas lease sale Feb. 24. Bid opening will begin at 9 a.m. in Suite 240 at the Atwood Building, 550 W. 7th Ave., Anchorage.

The Beaufort sale, typically held in the fall with the North Slope and North Slope Foothills sales, was postponed due to an administrative error.

The minimum bonus bid is $10 per acre for all tracts. Tracts 1 through 26 have a fixed royalty rate of 12.5 percent; all other tracts have a fixed royalty rate of 16.66667 percent.

Complete details on the lease sale are available on the division’s Web site at

See stories in Dec. 27 issue available at noon Dec. 24 at

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