The well that exploded was under excessive pressure. BP investigators believe a casing 17 feet underground ruptured and caused a natural gas explosion inside a wellhead building. The injured worker, Don Shugak, who had gone to the newly restarted well to bleed off pressure, was hit by the blast and suffered burns and multiple broken bones. He remains in a Seattle hospital.
The 137 wells together produce about 45,000 barrels of oil a day. Prudhoe, the largest North American oil field, has about 1,600 wells in all and produces most of the North Slope's total daily output of more than 1 million barrels.
Restarting the idled wells could take days or weeks, Marshall said. Meanwhile, BP plans to dismantle the ruptured well to gain more clues about why it failed. BP has worked closely with unionized Prudhoe workers to come up with some new safety procedures, Marshall added. George Blankenship, greater Prudhoe Bay field manager, outlined these changes:
Historically, that was not done, Blankenship said. All the changes were done in close consultation with field workers and BP will take care not to let the additional safety steps add to the workload of existing staff, he said. "If these procedures can't be followed, then we will not bring on a well," Blankenship said. "We will only bring on wells as we have the manpower to do so." BP officials have stressed that Shugak did nothing wrong in the August 16th explosion, that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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