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ANCHORAGE - Oil giant BP restarted the eastern side of the Prudhoe Bay oil field - shut down since August when a leak was found - and expects production to reach 150,000 barrels a day by the weekend, a BP spokesman said Tuesday.
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The eastern side of the country's largest oil field ceased production Aug. 10, a few days after a leak was discovered in a corroded transit line. Initially, the company expected to shut down the west side of the field as well, but kept that side in operation after determining it could be operated safely. The west side is producing about 200,000 barrels a day.
Production in the northern part of the field adds about 50,000 barrels a day. The oil field normally produces about 450,000 barrels of petroleum products.
A test in July on the northern field transit line that services that part of the field showed it was in good shape, said BP Alaska spokesman Daren Beaudo.
"It came out with flying colors," he said.
But BP plans to replace two of three Prudhoe Bay transit lines because of corrosion, or about 16 of 22 miles of pipelines.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday gave BP approval to resume production at three facilities on the east side of the field. Beaudo said restoring east side production will allow BP to run a device called a "smart pig" through the line to check its condition. That is the same test used on the northern transit line.
Beaudo said the east side transit line will first be scraped and cleaned with maintenance pigs. Within a few days, a smart pig that uses ultrasound will be put through the line to check for thin spots. Cleaning of the line could begin as early as this weekend, he said.
"We are resuming production in the east in a safe, orderly and structured manner," he said Tuesday.
It is expected to take about a week before the east side of the field reaches a steady state of operation with production at about 150,000 barrels a day. That is still 50,000 barrels a day below pre-leak production because the line on the east side where the August leak occurred remains shut down. BP is constructing a bypass on that line.