BP shuts down oil field after gas leak detected

Company unsure when production will resume

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ANCHORAGE - BP has shut down an offshore oil field in the Arctic Ocean after a small leak was discovered in a gas line, a company official said Tuesday.

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The shutdown of the Northstar oil field cut the company's daily North Slope production by about one-eighth, or 40,000 barrels a day, since Friday or Saturday, according to BP spokesman Daren Beaudo.

Beaudo said he was not sure when the field would resume operations.

"In order to fix it, we had to shut down the facility," Beaudo said. "They're taking the opportunity to take a look at other upgrades that need to be made."

There was no environmental damage and no safety hazard associated with the leak, Beaudo said. It was found in an 8-inch pipe containing extraneous gas from the field and likely caused by corrosion, he said.

The pinhole-sized leak was discovered during a routine inspection of Northstar's wells and processing facilities, which sit atop a man-made gravel island six miles off the northern coast of Alaska. The 27-square-mile field is located 39 feet beneath the ocean surface.

The latest shutdown comes several months after a pair of leaks caused BP to temporarily slash oil production at its nearby Prudhoe Bay facilities for several weeks starting in August. Company officials believe those leaks were also caused by corrosion.

"Corrosion continues to be an enemy to us and something we need to be vigilant about," Beaudo said. "It's something we have committed to reviewing globally."

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