Monday, August 07, 2006

Oil Production Shut Down at Prudhoe Bay

British Petroleum has shut down oil production at its fields at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, because of leaks in its pipeline.

BP, in a press release, said its engineers discovered a small leak and wall-thinning in a 22-mile long transit pipeline while conducting maintenance on August 4. It said analysis of data revealed 16 anomalies in 12 locations in the pipeline. BP is already facing a criminal investigation over a large spill in March at the same oil field.

BP said the spill, estimated at 4 to 5 barrels, had been contained and that a clean-up effort was underway. The pipeline was shut down at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
This oil field accounts for eight percent of the petroleum production in the United States.

It has to be embarrassing for BP, which has been running ad campaigns to make their products look environmentally-friendly for several years now.

This event and the spill in March should be a reminder of what can go wrong at an oil field. One of the claims proffered in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is that the work would only affect a small portion of the refuge. What we see in these cases is that spills and accidents can end up having a wider impact than the one specified in the proposals. Petroleum production creates a heavy footprint. It is fortunate that this spill was small; it could have been worse.

Update: BirdDC has more commentary on the story.