January 14, 2009

Conoco Reports Christmas Day Oil-Laced Water Spill

According to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), a corroded pipeline ruptured on Christmas Day in the ConocoPhillips' Kuparuk Alaskan oil field dumping 94,920 gallons of oil-laced water onto the North Slope.

The spill had little effect on production and was nearly cleaned up by Tuesday, said DEC officials.

According to Ed Meggert, on-scene spill response coordinator for the DEC, one well had to be shut in after the spill was discovered.

"It remains shut in, and the repairs aren't done yet," he added.

The Kuparuk field, which is North America's second largest, can produce nearly 150,000 barrels of crude oil in a day.

The ConocoPhillips spill was similar to a 200,000-gallon crude oil spill at BP Plc's Prudhoe Bay field in 2006.  That spill was the worst to happen on Alaska's North Slope, and was also caused by a corroded pipeline.

According to Paul Lhotka, environmental program specialist with the DEC, ConocoPhillips replaced the leaky pipeline and removed contaminated snow.

ConocoPhillips did not comment on the spill.

"It was lightly misted produced water and it was only on the surface, and it did not penetrate the snow cover," said Lhotka.

Fortunately the spill did not touch the tundra, which would have made a complex cleanup necessary.

If the spill had reached the tundra, it would have caused long-lasting environmental damage, and could have killed many plants.

According to state records, the Kuparuk oil field had a much smaller corrosion related spill last year.

ConocoPhillips is the majority owner of the Kuparuk field, while BP holds 39 percent ownership, followed by Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Another small spill occurred this week at the Milne Point field owned by BP.

According to the DEC, the Milne Point spill was discovered on Monday and was caused by the overflow of a sand slurry tank at a central facility pad in the field.

The Milne Point spill was much smaller (6,300 gallons) than the Christmas Day Kuparuk spill.

The spill was contained on the gravel pad surrounding the tank and had no impact on production, said Lhotka. 


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