BP gets DOT clearance to restart Prudhoe Bay field

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Sept. 22 -- BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. said Sept. 22 it will restart a portion of the Eastern Operating Area (EOA) of Prudhoe Bay field in order to run cleaning pigs and conduct an in-line, smart pig inspection of the oil transit line.

DOT's approval will allow BP to run the smart pig through a 5-mile, 34-in. segment that carries oil from processing facilities on the field's eastern half.

The EOA was shut down Aug. 10 following the discovery of a spill caused by isolated pitting corrosion on Aug. 6 (OGJ Online, Aug. 10, 2006).

The company has determined that the line can be returned to service. Three of the four flow stations currently on warm stand-by will be returned to full production, the company said.

"This is an important milestone in returning all of Prudhoe Bay to production many months in advance of our complete replacement of 16 miles of oil transit lines," said David Peattie, BP Group vice-president for existing profit centers.

Results of the smart pig inspection will aid BP and the US Department of Transportation to determine whether to continue operations through the transit oil line or to shift production through a system of bypass lines currently under construction.

BP has performed tests on thousands of feet of the EOA pipeline using ultrasonic and other imaging equipment. As added precaution, BP's start-up plans include an enhanced spill-response contingency plan, in which crews and material will be positioned to respond if any leak occurs, the company said.

BP said safely restarting the field will take about a week. Resuming full operation of eastern Prudhoe should add about 200,000 b/d of oil production from the Alaskan North Slope. Current production from the rest of Greater Prudhoe Bay is about 250,000 b/d.

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