AOGCC proposes change to well regulations
As a further response to a leak of oil and gas from a Prudhoe Bay well in April, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has proposed a change to the regulations for oil and gas well construction in Alaska. The proposed regulation would require a well surface casing to be set below the base of the permafrost. AOGCC requires comments on the proposed change by Dec. 20 and plans to conduct a hearing on the subject on Jan. 4.
The leak in question, a leak of oil and gas from the wellhead of well 02-03 on Drill Site 2, related to the wellhead geometry, in which the well’s outer casing shoe was set in the permafrost, AOGCC has said. BP, operator of the well, has said that the well was of a three-casing design. An investigation by the company determined that the thawing and subsidence of the permafrost around the wellhead had placed a load on the surface casing, causing the casing to break. Subsequently, the detached upper portion of the well had moved upwards, causing the wellhead to strike the wellhead housing, with consequent damage to the wellhead resulting in two leaks, one of oil and one of gas.
BP subsequently announced that it was shutting in all 14 of its wells that have the problematic well design. And on Oct. 30 the AOGCC issued an emergency order requiring all North Slope operators to shut in by the end of the year any wells that have a similar design to the well that failed.
- ALAN BAILEY