Prudhoe Bay is poised to return to full production

BP not yet sure what caused leak

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Oil company BP said it expects the nation's largest oil field to be back in full production sometime this weekend after a water pipe leak led to the second partial shutdown in a year.

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The leak, discovered Monday, cut daily production at Prudhoe Bay by 100,000 barrels a day, or about one fourth, said BP spokesman Steve Rinehart.

The company does not yet know what caused the leak in a line that carried water from a facility used to separate oil, water and natural gas. The hole was about the size of a pencil's diameter, the company said.

An independent lab will analyze the line and facilities and could come up with an answer in several weeks, Rineheart said.

The facility where the water leak occurred is the same one where the largest-ever oil leak on the North Slope occurred, in March 2006. In August, BP halved production at Prudhoe Bay after detecting corrosion in another set of pipelines.

Under pressure from Congress, BP began replacing 16 miles of faulty pipeline and improving its corrosion monitoring and pipeline cleaning practices.

Rinehart said the most recent shutdown did not disrupt work on the upgrades.

BP is Prudhoe Bay's operator, and it has a 25 percent stake in the field it shares with ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., which hold 36 percent interest each.

The British company said its production loss was about 25,000 barrels per day. Losses for the ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., the two majority owners, were about 36,000 barrels a day each.

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