Crews responding to a pipeline leak at the Prudhoe Bay oil field have completed their freeze protection of the leaking line and moved onto the task of removing snow that was sprayed with crude oil and oil-laced produced water, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said Thursday.
The spill, discovered Monday at a flow line of a well pad in the western part of the Prudhoe Bay field, created a mist of oil and produced water that sprayed 33 acres of snow-covered tundra, DEC said. The crews removed 70 cubic yards of contaminated snow Wednesday night, and on Thursday workers focused on removing the snow with the most contamination, DEC said in its daily update. About 40 cleanup workers were at the site Thursday, and crews were alternating day and night duty, using hand tools and backhoes to remove the contaminated snow.
Still unknown is the volume of spilled material and the cause of the pipeline leak, DEC said.
The spill site is more than a mile from the site where crude oil leaked for days from a Prudhoe Bay transit line in 2006, the worst oil spill on record at the North Slope oil fields. That 212,252-gallon spill, and a subsequent spill at another part of the transit line system, resulted in a partial shutdown of North America’s biggest oil field, criminal and civil penalties and a $500 million rebuild of the 16-mile transit pipeline system that carries crude oil from the processing facilities to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The flow line that caused Tuesday’s spill is unrelated to that transit line system; it carries oil, produced water and natural gas directly from the wellhead to feed the system that will process the material and, eventually, ship out the separated crude oil.
Production at the well pad was shut down when the pipeline leak was discovered, said BP spokeswoman Dawn Patience. The company had hoped to restart production there on Thursday, but she did not know if that had yet occurred.
No wildlife had been affected by the spill as of Thursday, DEC said.
Canada: Nunavut fuel spills are down, but accidents still happen, CBC News
Finland: Talvivaara waste water under scrutiny for uranium in Finland, Yle News
Sweden: Baltic nations not prepared for large oil spills, Radio Sweden
United States: Spill in Alaska’s North Slope spreads to 33 acres, Alaska Dispatch