SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Source of Prudhoe Bay Pipeline Leak Located; Clean-up Continues


March 06, 2006

Spill response workers located the source of the Prudhoe Bay crude oil leak early Sunday morning. The leak was found on a low-lying 34" crude oil transit line that leads to the trans-Alaska pipeline following snow removal around a culvert in a caribou crossing. The area of the leak is located about one mile from Gathering Center 2 (GC-2).

A total of 60 spill responders, 30 for the day shift and 30 for the night shift are working in the field cleanup efforts according to Unified Command. With temperatures dipping below -10º F and frostbite a concern, response crews are frequently swapped and warm-up shacks have been provided for the workers.

jpg Prudhoe Bay pipeline leak

GC-2 Oil Transit Line Spill response
Photo Credit: BPXA

Finding the source of the leak was a focus of the operation since the spill was discovered Thursday. Early Sunday morning, night shift workers heard noise emanating from inside the culvert, and illuminated the area. According to information provided by Unified Command, the workers could see the oil "slowly dripping" from the line, about 10 feet inside the buried culvert. The culvert surrounds the transit line as it passes under the caribou crossing. An oil spray pattern was also noted on the inside of the culvert.

As of 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning, approximately 1,009 barrels - or more than 42,000 gallons - of crude oil and snow melt were recovered. During the first 36 hours of the response, approximately 501 barrels of oil were collected after being separated from water. Fluid recovery efforts continue with vacuum trucks and specialized pumps to handle the viscous oil.

jpg Source of Leak

Source of Leak - Entry into Crossing - March 05, 2006
Photo Credit: Unified Command Photo

A BP Alaska resumption team, responsible for integrity of the pipe, pipeline repair, freeze protection and restart of the line and facilities, is coordinating its efforts with the response team. An excavator was scheduled to arrive on site Sunday to begin excavation of the pipeline at the caribou crossing. Unified Command said that once excavation is complete, a detailed repair plan will be developed. Officials say it is still too early to determine when the line will restart.

Work will progress with caution and care to ensure worker safety and to prevent worsening the spill according to officials. Ninety-five percent of the spill area is contained by snow berms that are being strengthened by spraying water on them, allowing them to ice over.

jpg Cleanup Operations

Spill Clean-up - March 05, 2006
Photo Credit: Unified Command Photo

The spill was first discovered Thursday morning by a BP operator. Since its discovery Thursday, operations at the spill site have focused on two areas - clean-up of the spilled oil and on locating the source of the leak. With temperatures dipping below -10 F °, the crude oil gels into a thicker, more viscous material. As a result, clean-up crews are using two specialized pumps to remove the more viscous liquid.

Unified Command continues to focus efforts on oil recovery and clean up. The Unified command is comprised of representatives from BP Alaska, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the North Slope Borough and the Department of Environmental Conservation

Almost two acres of tundra and frozen lake surface may be impacted according to information released by officials Sunday. The cause of the leak has yet to be determined.



Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska