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Leak cuts oil production at Prudhoe Bay

Wed., May 23, 2007

JUNEAU, Alaska — BP officials said Tuesday it was too early to determine what caused a water pipe leak that led to the second partial shutdown in 10 months of the nation’s largest producing oil field.

“The best estimate is that it’s going to be a few days where we are going through a repair plan,” said BP spokesman Daren Beaudo. “We will work as quickly and as safely as we can.”

Production at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay was cut by one fourth after the company discovered the leak early Monday morning, company officials said.

Some 400,000 barrels a day of oil are pumped at Prudhoe Bay, about half of the total North Slope production.

Beaudo said the company discovered a hole about the size of a pencil’s diameter to a water line in a facility used to separate oil, water and natural gas.

About 20 barrels of water leaked from the pipe, which is about 12 inches in diameter, before the it was discovered around 1:45 a.m. Monday, Beaudo said.

BP is Prudhoe Bay’s operator, and it has a 25 percent stake in the field it shares largely with ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., which hold 36 percent interest each.

The British company said its production loss would be 25,000 barrels per day; losses for the two majority owners would be about 36,000 barrels a day each.

Light sweet crude for June delivery fell $1.36 to $64.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The facility where the water leak occurred is the same one where the largest-ever oil leak on the North Slope occurred, last year.

For decades, some critics charge, lax government enforcement along with corporate unwillingness to make costly repairs caused corrosion and other wear-and-tear issues to fester.


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