Workers relieve pressure on leaking Alaska oil well

Responders attempted to bring the well under control at the start of the weekend, but the operation failed because of damage to a well pressure gauge, the Alaska Department of Conservation said. Natural gas was also being released uncontrollably.

In more recent years, BP has faced intense scrutiny over its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and created the largest offshore oil spill in US federal waters.

BP Exploration Alaska told state regulators Friday that oil was spraying from a well onto a pad and possibly onto the snow-covered tundra. An overflight with infrared capabilities indicated that the spray plume did not spread beyond the drilling pad, according to the Alaska DEC.

The safety valve at the top of the well has stopped one leak, but a second leak from the bottom continued as of Saturday afternoon.

An earlier report by the Alaska DEC said that the pressure in the well had caused the well assembly and equipment to rise three to four feet, hampering efforts to shut off the gas leak. "The bottom leak has been reduced, but is now leaking gas as well as some minor amount of crude oil".

"No people were in the vicinity of the well at the time of the release and there are no injuries", he added.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which runs from Prudhoe Bay south to Valdez, isn't affected by this incident and is operating normally, Michelle Egan, a company spokeswoman, said by telephone Sunday.

BP and state regulators are investigating the cause. Production began there 40 years ago. That helps enhance oil recovery but it is also because there is no pipeline to carry natural gas to markets.

  • Zachary Reyes