ANCHORAGE - About 1,600 gallons of a petroleum product called naphtha spilled out of split tubing at the Kuparuk oil field on the North Slope.
State environmental regulators are investigating the spill, which was discovered Saturday at a plant that refines crude oil into diesel fuel used to run trucks and power generators at Kuparuk. Naphtha is a byproduct of the refining process.
The liquid leaked onto the ground, but it was confined to a gravel work pad, said John Dixon, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Workers for Conoco Phillips Alaska Inc., the oil company that operates the Kuparuk field, recovered the freestanding fluids and scooped up naphtha-saturated snow with shovels and a small front-end loader, Dixon said Tuesday.
For safety, the workers monitored the air for explosive vapors.
The leak forced Conoco to shut down the small refining plant so workers could repair the tubing, said Conoco spokeswoman Dawn Patience. The company is trucking in diesel from Fairbanks in the interim.
The split tubing was in a piece of equipment called a condenser. Conoco workers believe it split when water that shouldn't have been in the system froze during an extreme cold snap, Patience said. A DEC report said the temperature early Saturday was minus 40.
Corrosion, a constant enemy in the oil patch, was not believed to have been a factor, she said.
Conoco crews plan to thaw the gravel to see if additional cleanup is necessary, Patience said.
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