BP Pipeline Leaks in Alaska

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 02:07 PM gHale

A pipeline at BP’s 30,000 barrel per day Lisburne field in Alaska ruptured during testing and spilled a mixture of methanol and oily water onto the tundra.

The closed pipeline was undergoing maintenance. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said the spill occurred on Saturday and amounted to 2,100 to 4,200 gallons.

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A BP spokesman said the cleanup was under way and the company would determine the cause “in due course.”

Lisburne, managed as part of the Greater Prudhoe Bay Unit, has produced no oil since June 18, according to Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records, suggesting maintenance work requiring a prolonged shutdown.

BP is no stranger to oil spills, but this one pales in comparison to the blow out in the Gulf of Mexico that caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, killing 11 and spewing almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf and putting BP’s future in the U.S. at risk.

In addition, previous problems include leaks from corroded pipelines in Alaska and the Texas City refinery blast in 2005 that left 15 dead.

Production from the entire Lisburne field remains shut off until the company addresses the spill, Alaska officials said.

Immediate efforts focus on containment and cleanup, said Tom DeRuyter, state on-scene coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The methanol-produced water mix spread into wet tundra as well as onto a gravel pad, bringing risks to slow-growing vegetation, DeRuyter said.

“You have actively growing plants and they’re very susceptible to the contaminants,” he said.

The company will also have to dig up the pipeline to allow for an investigation into why it failed, he said.

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