Corroded pipe causes Kuparuk oily water

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A corroded pipe is being blamed for a spill of oily water at the Kuparuk oil field on the North Slope.

Cleanup is nearly complete of the nearly 95,000 gallon spill that occurred on Christmas Day. Conoco Phillips, the Houston-based energy company that runs the field, said the spill was mostly salty water with a trace amount of crude oil.

The hot liquid sprayed out of a 3-inch crack in a water injection line on to the tundra. It did not cause a shutdown in oil production.

Conoco spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said the last time that the 6-inch line had been inspected for corrosion was in 2000. She said no problems were detected at that time.

According to a state environmental report, the spill contaminated nearly three acres of snow-covered tundra with a light misting of oily water, as well as nearly two acres of gravel at the well pad.

The cleanup involved removing the contaminated gravel and snow, recycling the oily water and snowmelt and putting the rest of the contaminated material in waste dumps.

Corrosion was blamed for two serious oil pipeline spills at the Prudhoe Bay field in 2006. Prudhoe Bay is operated by energy company BP.

Conoco responded by stepping up its own corrosion detection program at Kuparuk, the Slope's second-largest oil field. In 2006, the company told regulators it had found 12 bad spots at the oil field. That year, a corrosion-caused hole in a Kuparuk line spilled about 500 gallons of oil and water.

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