Just when it was starting to recover from the Deepwater Horizon fallout, BP has had to report another accident, though much smaller in scale: a well in the North Slope in Alaska has been spewing crude and natural gas for three days. The spill was discovered on Friday, and the oil leakage has since been contained but gas is still flowing from the well, according to the Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation.
Still, the situation at the well is too dangerous, and estimations of the actual size of the damage will have to wait, the agency added. The good news is that based on aerial photographs of the well, the oil spill was contained in the gravel pad of the rig that is pumping oil and gas from the well. What’s more, an earlier statement from the Unified Command Task Force tackling the spill said that the amount of oil leaked was small compared to the amount of gas that is being released.
The task force comprising BP, officials from the local government of the North Slope, the EPA, and the ADEP has been dealing with the spill since Friday. They still don’t know what caused the spill.
Media covering the accident recall that this is not the first spill for BP’s Alaskan operations, which account for over half of the state’s oil and gas output. Back in 2009, a pipeline spilled some 1,100 barrels of crude in a BP-operated field.
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Three years earlier, again a pipeline – a corroded one – spilled 4,800 barrels of oil. The accident was the worst oil spill in the North Slope, but thankfully does not even come close to the millions of barrels that the Macondo well gushed into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11.
The North Slope is home to the biggest legacy conventional oil fields in the United States and has recently seen a revival after energy firms decided to try and extend these fields’ productive lives and possibly even tap hitherto undiscovered deposits. This last March, daily output in the area hit 565,000 bpd – the highest in more than three years.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.