BP leak causes further chaos at Prudhoe Bay

23-05-2007

BP leak causes further chaos at Prudhoe Bay
Oil giant BP has been forced to shut down a quarter of its operations at its Alaskan oil field following a water pipe leak.

The company, which discovered the leak on Monday, said it expected production at its Prudhoe Bay field to be down by around 25,000 barrels per day while action is taken to repair the leak to a processing facility which separates water from crude oil.

"We expect the facility to be down a few days while repairs are made," said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell yesterday, giving details about how long the damage could take to repair.

He stressed that fewer than 20 barrels of water were spilled in the incident and that they never escaped the facility.

Traders demonstrated little reaction to the news, although US light sweet crude fell by $1.30 (£0.66) to close at $64.97 (£32.82), while in London the price of Brent crude slipped by 97 cents (£0.49) a barrel to $69.52 (£35.10).

Nonetheless, it is the second time BP has been forced to partially close part of the Prudhoe Bay facility in the past ten months.

A congressional committee is currently investigating a March 2006 spill which took place at the oil field, which is the largest in the US.

Amid criticisms that BP may be guilty of a poor maintenance record, BP America chief executive Bob Malone last week admitted in a hearing that there had been "extreme budget pressures" at Prudhoe Bay which had affected maintenance.

Commenting on the latest problem at the field, the chairman of the House of Representatives' energy and commerce investigations subcommittee stressed that BP would be held accountable.

"While I have not seen all the facts on this most recent leak, it appears to be yet further evidence that BP's cost-cutting culture has put our nation's economy at risk," US representative Bart Stupak said.



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