BP to Re-Start a Portion of Prudhoe Bay Production


BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. said it will re-start a portion of the Eastern Operating Area of Prudhoe Bay in order to run cleaning pigs and conduct an in-line inspection of the crude oil transit line using a "smart pig." The eastern portion of Prudhoe Bay was shut down on Aug. 10 following discovery of a spill caused by isolated pitting corrosion on Aug. 6.

The company, working closely with the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, has determined that the line can be returned to service. Three of the four flow stations currently on warm stand-by will be returned to full production.

"This is an important milestone in returning all of Prudhoe Bay to production many months in advance of our complete replacement of 16 miles of oil transit lines," said David Peattie, BP Group Vice President for Existing Profit Centers. "It is a result of the considerable efforts of BP employees working in cooperation with contractors and federal and state regulators."

The DOT approval allows BP to run an in-line diagnostic tool -- called a smart pig -- through a five-mile, 34-inch diameter segment that carries oil from processing facilities on the eastern half of the Prudhoe Bay field. The results of the smart pig inspection, to be confirmed with Ultrasonic Testing inspection, will help BP and the DOT determine whether to continue operations through the transit oil line or to shift production through a system of bypass lines currently under construction.

BP has performed tests on thousands of feet of the Eastern Operating Area pipeline using ultrasonic and other imaging equipment. As added precaution, BP's start-up plans include an enhanced spill-response contingency plan, in which crews and material will be positioned to respond if any leak occurs.

BP anticipates safely restarting the field will take about a week. Resuming full operation of eastern Prudhoe should add about 200,000 barrels of daily oil production from the North Slope of Alaska. Current daily production from the rest of Greater Prudhoe Bay is about 250,000 barrels per day.