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article imageOil well in Alaska shut down after oil spill — still spewing gas

By Karen Graham     Apr 16, 2017 in Environment
Prudhoe Bay - Federal regulators are preparing to shut down an oil well on Alaska's North Slope near Deadhorse tonight. The wellhead cracked Friday and sent up a plume of crude oil before it froze and the initial leak stopped. It is still spewing natural gas.
Anchorage-based BP Exploration Alaska Inc., a subsidiary of BP PLC, is the owner of the well in the Prudhoe Bay oil field. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says employees discovered the "uncontrolled gas release" from the top of a well house at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
"No people were in the vicinity of the well at the time of the release and there are no injuries," said Brett Clanton, with BP U.S. Media Affairs on Friday. "Crews have secured the site, the fire department is on the scene and crew members are now working to safely shut in the well."
There is no estimation of the volume of oil spilled or the amount of natural gas that is still coming from the wellhead. "Based on an overflight with infrared cameras, the release (of oil) appears to be contained to the gravel pad surrounding the wellhead and has not reached the tundra," Clanton said Saturday.
PRUDHOE BAY-DEADHORSE  Alaska (March 12  2007) – At the northern end of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline ...
PRUDHOE BAY-DEADHORSE, Alaska (March 12, 2007) – At the northern end of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Prudhoe Bay-Deadhorse, Alaska, also serves as the beach detachment for the Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station (APLIS) which has been established on a drifting ice floe about 180 nautical miles north in support of arctic testing for U.S. and U.K submarines.
United States Navy, photographer not specified
The well is too dangerous at this time for a response team made up of state and federal energy officials and BP employees to get near the well. Fox News is reporting there are actually two leaks - one near the top and one further down the well assembly, says BP. The upper leak was the one leaking crude oil and hazardous natural gas, but a safety valve activated and shut that leak off.
The second leak is still leaking natural gas, as well as a small amount of crude oil said BP. Out of an abundance of caution, because no one really knows how much oil and gas has been vented, BP employees were evacuated and native Alaskan villages for dozens of miles around have been notified, according to the Associated Press.
No injuries have been reported and the DEC says approximately 1.5 acres may have been affected. No wildlife has been impacted by the spill as of Saturday night.
More about oil well, Alaska, North slope, Spewing gas, Tundra
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