BP reports second pipe break at facility

/ Source: The Associated Press

British oil giant BP PLC said Monday that a second pipeline ruptured at its Alaskan facility, a month after the company reported its largest-ever spill at an oilfield on Alaska’s Northern Slope.

The break occurred on a three-inch wide natural gas line on April 6 near a production building at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield, BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said Monday.

The break resulted in an estimated leak of 12,000 cubic feet of natural gas, well below regulatory standards for reporting, Beaudo said.

“Someone apparently heard the rupture, so it was a fairly quick response,” he said, adding that external corrosion was the likely cause of the leak.

The rupture follows a massive spill at the facility last month in a pipeline between two gathering centers. As much as 270,000 gallons (1.02 million liters) of crude spilled into the oilfield over an estimated period of five days.

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched an investigation into the spill, Beaudo said, and has subpoenaed a consulting firm that participated in the company’s corrosion control efforts. A Washington-based spokesman for the EPA, Dale Kemery, would neither confirm nor deny any probe into either incident on Monday, citing agency policy.

Alaska environmental regulators said that an investigation into last month’s spill could result in fines against BP subsidiary BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. of more than $2 million.

In a letter to two U.S. congressmen obtained by The Associated Press earlier this month, Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., wrote that “recent and aggressive internal corrosion is the likely cause” of the leak.