Natural Gas Leaking From BP Well in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay

Prudhoe Bay

BP employees discovered an uncontrolled natural gas leak that was accompanied by the spray of crude oil.

In 2006, a BP oil pipeline in Prudhoe Bay ruptured and spilled 215,000 gallons of crude oil over the North Slope.

Responders on Saturday night were able to enter the well house and connect hoses to valves.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Candice Bressler says the well operated by BP Exploration Alaska Inc., a subsidiary of BP, was successfully controlled overnight.

Neither injuries nor impacts to the wildlife have been reported. The good news is that based on aerial photographs of the well, the oil spill was contained in the gravel pad of the rig that is pumping oil and gas from the well.

The ADEC also said that two leaks have been identified at the well, one near the top and one further down the well assembly.

Efforts to get the well under control were also being hampered by damage to a well pressure gauge and by indications that the well itself has "jacked up", or risen three to four feet, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said in a situation report Saturday afternoon.

BP did not have an estimate available for the volume of oil and natural gas spilled. Both BP and ADEC, which used an airborne infrared camera to examine the scene, say that the vast majority of the spray landed on the drilling pad.

BP has dealt with several spills and leaks in Alaska in the past. But its infamous 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill focused the world's attention on the environmental and economic importance of the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists, describing the well as "out of control", called on the state to investigate. The gas, which comes up along with oil, is typically pumped back underground to squeeze more crude oil out of the reservoirs.

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