Another Worker Dies in North Slope Accident

One man was killed and two others were injured while working on a high-pressure pipe at BP Exploration Alaska's North Slope, a BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. spokesman said. Rodney Rost of Soldotna was killed when he was struck by a plug that blew out of the 28-inch pipe on which he was working. The incident occurred late last month.

The three welders were re-commissioning a water line that had been out of service, said Daren Beaudo, BP spokesman. They are union workers for the BP contractor Norcon, which is a subsidiary of the construction giant Veco Corp. An investigation is under way to determine why there was enough pressure in the pipe to cause the plug to release, Beaudo said. "Obviously there shouldn't have been enough pressure in that line to cause that plug to do what it did. That's going to be the focus of the investigation," he said. Beaudo could not say what was the source of the pressure that forced the plug out.

Gas pressure caused another incident on the North Slope earlier this year. In August, a well ruptured, releasing a torrent of natural gas into the small metal building covering the wellhead and injuring a worker who was at the site to bleed off the pressure. The gas uprooted flooring timbers and gravel in the wellhouse and sparked an explosion and fire. In that accident, Don Shugak, a veteran BP oil field operator, suffered burns and broken bones. Later, BP shut down and tested about 150 oil wells. The tests did not reveal significant problems.

The two incidents happened in different areas of the oil field. The accident that injured Shugak happened at a well, with the rupture originating underground. The Dec. 21 pressure incident happened at a processing area and concerned an aboveground pipe. "Two totally different types of situations," Beaudo said.