ANCHORAGE, Alaska /PRNewswire/ -- BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. announced that it will continue production of oil from the western side of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. Current production is 150,000 barrels per day, including natural gas liquids, and is expected to increase to 200,000 barrels per day as Gathering Center 1 ramps up to full production after completion of a planned maintenance shutdown.
BP will complete the installation of 16 miles of new oil transit line at Prudhoe Bay by early next year. The company continues to evaluate interim options for restoring production from the eastern side of the field, subject to the approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The decision to continue production from the western half of the field was taken after close consultation with federal and state regulatory agencies, review of more than 1400 ultrasonic inspections conducted on a key five-mile section of pipeline and a decision to begin round-the-clock visual and infrared surveillance of the line.
"Over the last five days we have doubled spot inspections over a key five-mile segment of the oil transit pipeline serving the western side of the field," said BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone. "The results have been encouraging and have increased our confidence in the operational integrity of this pipeline. With greatly enhanced surveillance and response capability, I am confident we can continue to safely operate the line."
BP will continue ultrasonic inspection of the western transit line and plans to complete additional inspections in coming weeks. The company will evaluate test results on a daily basis to determine if repairs are required or if continued operation of the line is appropriate. BP plans to run maintenance and smart pigs through the pipeline before the end of November after installing a pig launcher at Gathering Center 1.
The surveillance effort will include daily over-flights using forward looking infrared cameras, as well as the use of hand-held infrared cameras on the ground. The cameras are capable of detecting small leaks by sensing changes in pipeline surface temperatures.
Two vehicles equipped with spill response equipment and carrying observers with infra-red leak detection equipment will patrol the line 24 hours a day. They will be teamed with pipeline walkers who will visually inspect the line 10 times a day.
"We will ensure that our inspection and surveillance programs meet or exceed the requirements of the amended corrective action order issued August 10 by the Department of Transportation," said BP Exploration Alaska President Steve Marshall. "State and federal agency personnel have played an important role in reviewing and testing our plans. I want to thank them for giving this effort their complete and undivided attention.
"I also want to thank the hundreds of men and women who have been inspecting pipe, studying the data, developing plans for enhanced surveillance of the pipeline, evaluating options and doing it all safely," Marshall said.