Feds deny BP's call to delay pipeline tests on North Slope

Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Federal regulators have denied a request by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. to postpone testing of North Slope low-pressure transit pipelines with internal devices that clean lines and detect physical problems.

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The company, however, can continue operating the lines as it uses alternate testing methods to detect problems.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, on March 15 ordered BP to test within three months three low-pressure oil pipelines with a "smart pig," which runs inside the pipe and detects anomalies and weak spots.

The order called for BP to run scraper pigs through pipes to push out sediment and solids. The company also was to correct problems and report its progress.

The agency ordered the testing two weeks after BP discovered the largest oil spill in North Slope history, a leak of an estimated 201,000 gallons onto the tundra from a 34-inch pipeline in Prudhoe Bay's western operating area.

The agency's corrective action order called for maintenance pigging by Monday and inspection with the smart pig by Thursday.

Those deadlines will not be met but BP will be allowed to operate the transit lines to move oil to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

"We're pleased that the Department of Transportation has authorized the continued operation of the BP transit lines and have made a preliminary determination that the testing alternatives we have proposed will meet the agency's intent," said company spokesman Daren Beaudo.

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