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Vol. 13, No. 26 Week of June 29, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Section of new pipe springs a leak

BP and state investigators are looking into a water leak from a new section of major piping in the Prudhoe Bay oil field.

The elevated pipe, installed the winter before last to replace a corroded oil line near the heart of the vast field, sprang a leak June 16, releasing an estimated 50,000 gallons of water directly into a tundra lake, BP spokesman Steve Rinehart said.

The new pipe has yet to carry any oil, he said.

The leak occurred as workers prepared to test the pipeline, 18 inches in diameter, by sending water through under high pressure, Rinehart said.

The water did contain a trace amount of a chemical used to safeguard steel pipes against corrosion, Rinehart said.

The company is still trying to determine why the pipe leaked, he said.

Line scheduled for service this year

It is scheduled to go into service as an oil trunk line by the end of the year, carrying oil from the field toward the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The leak shouldn’t change the schedule, Rinehart said.

“The test was successful in terms of finding a leak before there was a big problem,” said Bob Mattson, spill prevention and emergency response manager with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “That’s the silver lining.”

The leaking water isn’t expected to damage the lake, and no significant cleanup is under way, Mattson said.

Rinehart said no fish live in the unnamed lake, which is perhaps a quarter-mile across.

London-based BP runs Prudhoe, the nation’s largest oil field, and shares costs with other owners including ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Chevron.

BP came under intense scrutiny from Congress and federal and state pipeline regulators beginning in 2006 when major oil trunk lines sprang leaks and spilled oil onto the tundra. Critics said BP had neglected the lines. The company is replacing 16 miles of problem pipe.

Last November, after BP’s Alaska subsidiary pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor environmental crime, a federal judge sentenced the firm to three years probation and ordered it to pay $20 million in criminal penalties for a 201,000-gallon oil spill from a corroded pipeline.

—Wesley Loy, Anchorage Daily News



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