Blast spurs shut off of 150 wells

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE - BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. plans to shut down and test about 150 North Slope oil wells in response to an explosion that seriously injured a worker earlier this month.

The company said it wants to prevent a repeat situation in another well with pressure build-up similar to the well that ruptured and caught fire Aug. 16.

Company officials said the shutdown is an unprecedented safety move. Together the wells produce about 60,000 barrels of oil a day - 6 percent of total North Slope production. Under on current prices, oil flow worth about $1.7 million a day could be interrupted.

Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., said an investigative team including some of BP's top global experts recommended the wells be shut down and tested, and he agreed. Marshall said he notified Gov. Tony Knowles Saturday.

The wells won't be shut down all at once, but in phases over the next week to 10 days. Marshall said the goal is to bring the wells back on stream as quickly as possible.

Don Shugak, a veteran BP oil field operator, suffered burns and broken bones as he prepared to bleed off pressure from a well on A Pad at Prudhoe Bay, North America's largest oil field.

Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating, along with BP.

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