August 10, 2006

BP only inspecting bottom of Alaska pipelines

By Robert Campbell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BP crews racing to complete an
integrity survey of the corrosion-plagued oil transit pipelines
at its giant Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska are only looking
at the bottom sixth of the lines, a BP spokesman confirmed on

BP expects to decide by Friday whether to shut down the
western half of the 400,000 barrels per day Prudhoe field after
closing the eastern portion of the field earlier this week
after government-ordered internal pipeline inspections turned
up what the company called unexpectedly severe corrosion on an
oil transit line in the eastern half of the field.

"Both in the east operating area and the west operating
area, everywhere we've found corrosion it's always been at the
bottom of the pipe," said BP spokesman Scot Dean. "We are very,
very confident that we are focusing on the right areas and
looking in the right place."

BP's critics charge that the corrosion at Prudhoe Bay's oil
transit lines went undetected for years because of the
assumptions the company made about corrosion.

BP had not conducted regular internal corrosion surveys
with devices called smart pigs on any of the transit lines
since the 1990s because the company believed that the low
amounts of water within the lines made corrosion unlikely to

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation,
which is supervising BP's operation of the pipelines at Prudhoe
Bay, was not immediately available to comment on whether the
government had enough confidence in BP's inspection methods to
allow the company to continue to operate.

BP intents to replace all of the oil transit lines at
Prudhoe Bay even if it continues to partially operate the
field. Sources familiar with the emergency replacement plans
told Reuters on Thursday the cost for replacing the 16 miles of
oil transit lines at Prudhoe Bay could be up to $100 million
due to tight global steel pipe supplies.