Large Alaskan oil field shut down because of corrosion, small spill
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Half the oil production on Alaska’s North Slope was being shut down Sunday after BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. discovered severe corrosion and a small spill from a Prudhoe Bay oil transit line.BP officials said they didn’t know how long the Prudhoe Bay field would be off line. “I don’t even know how long it’s going to take to shut it down,” said Tom Williams, BP’s senior tax and royalty counsel.Once the field is shut down, in a process expected to take day, BP said oil production will be reduced by 400,000 barrels a day. That’s close to 8 percent of U.S. oil production as of May 2006, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”We regret that it is necessary to take this action and we apologize to the nation and the State of Alaska for the adverse impacts it will cause,” BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone said in a statement.Malone said the field will not resume operating until the company and government regulators are satisfied it can run safely without threatening the environment.Officials learned Friday that data from an internal sensing device found 16 anomalies in 12 locations in an oil transit line on the eastern side of the field. Follow-up inspections found “corrosion-related wall thinning appeared to exceed BP criteria for continued operation,” the company said in a release.That’s when workers also found a small spill, estimated to be about 4 to 5 barrels. A barrel contains 42 gallons of crude oil.BP says the spill has been contained and clean up efforts are under way. State and federal officials have been informed of the decision.BP said it was sending additional resources from across the state and North America to hasten the inspection of the remaining transit lines. About 40 percent of the lines have been inspected.BP previously said it would replace a 3-mile segment of pipeline following inspections conducted after up to 267,000 gallons of oil spilled onto the frozen ground about 250 miles above the Arctic Circle in March.House Speaker John Harris said it was admirable that BP took immediate action, although it’s sure to hurt state coffers.”This state cannot afford to have another Exxon Valdez,” said Harris, R-Valdez.
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