BP (www.bp.com) received permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT, www.dot.gov) to restart a portion of the Eastern Operating Area of Prudhoe Bay in order to run cleaning pigs and conduct an in-line inspection of the crude oil transit line using a smart pigging device. The eastern portion of Prudhoe Bay was shut down on Aug. 10 following discovery of a spill caused by isolated pitting corrosion.
The company, working with the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, has determined that the line can be returned to service. Three of the four flow stations currently on stand-by will be returned to full production.
The DOT approval allows BP to run an in-line diagnostic tool — called a smart pig — through a five-mile, 34-inch diameter segment that carries oil from processing facilities on the eastern half of the Prudhoe Bay field. The results of the smart pig inspection, to be confirmed with ultrasonic testing inspection, is expected to help BP and the DOT determine whether to continue operations through the transit oil line or to shift production through a system of bypass lines currently under construction.
According to BP, it has performed tests on thousands of feet of the Eastern Operating Area pipeline using ultrasonic and other imaging equipment. As added precaution, BP’s startup plans includes an enhanced spill-response contingency plan, in which crews and material will be positioned to respond if any leak occurs.
BP anticipates safely restarting the field will take about a week. Resuming full operation of the eastern portion of the Prudhoe field is expected to add about 200,000 barrels of daily oil production from the North Slope of Alaska. Current daily production from the rest of Prudhoe Bay is about 250,000 barrels per day.