Oil Spill on North Slope

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 @ 11:03 PM gHale

Almost 4,000 gallons of crude oil, water and other fluids ended up recovered from a North Slope pipeline leak at a Hilcorp Alaska production site, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The leak from a 10-inch production line serving Tract 14 at Milne Point ended up discovered just before 7:50 a.m. Saturday. DEC received an after-hours call at 9 a.m. that morning, and responders went out shortly afterward.

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“The cause of the production line rupture is under investigation, but crude escaped from an estimated 1/4-inch diameter hole in the 10-inch production line,” DEC officials said. “An unknown amount of produced fluids including crude oil and produced water were released to the pad and tundra.”

Hilcorp officials began a response by mobilizing about a dozen responders on-site, as well as requesting aid from the Kuparuk Spill Response Team and the Alaska Clean Seas response team. An estimated 38,000 square feet in the area of the leak were “heavily to lightly misted by fluids.”

“An estimated 3,906 gallons (93 barrels) of liquids have been recovered by vacuum truck to date,” DEC officials said. “Responders have sprayed water onto the affected area to form an ice cap over the contamination keeping it in place; thereby preventing further migration during an upcoming weather event.”

According to DEC, wells at Tract 14 ended up shut in, with no oil flowing through the line and valves on either side of the affected pipe section closed.

“A wooden plug was inserted in the hole and that portion of the production line was wrapped to prevent future release,” DEC officials wrote. “Containment supplies were placed under the release point to reduce further environmental impact. Remaining product in (the) affected pipe segment has been removed.”

Severe blizzard conditions overnight Saturday halted response efforts, with crews planning to return Sunday. A section of bypass pipe is ready to go to replace the damaged section of pipe, which will end up removed and inspected when weather permits.

A unified command has been set up for the incident including Hilcorp, DEC, the Environmental Protection Agency and the North Slope Borough.

On-scene DEC coordinator Tom DeRuyter said crews were only able to reach the site again at 6 p.m. Sunday, and still don’t have a solid estimate for how much liquid spilled from the line.

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