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State agency orders abandonment of 14 BP wells at Prudhoe Bay following December leak

14 January 2019

According to local media, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has ordered BP to plug and abandon 14 wells which were identified as being at risk after a major incident in 2017. BP discovered one of its wells was leaking gas and a small amount of oil on December 7. The company estimates two gallons of oil were spilled in the well house.

Prudhoe Bay facility - Image: BP
Prudhoe Bay facility - Image: BP

The Commission is in the process of investigating the December leak and is holding a hearing to address the incident next month.

A more severe incident happened in 2017 at a different BP well with a similar design.

BP linked the earlier accident to thawing permafrost and the well’s design, which led the well to jump up several feet from the ground, hit the top of the well house, and begin spewing gas and oil.

Following the 2017 incident, the commission ordered oil companies across Alaska’s North Slope to review thousands of wells. BP reported 14 more at-risk wells, which were later shut in — meaning the wells were no longer operational but could potentially be used to produce oil again in future. BP confirmed the well that began leaking last month was one of the 14 at-risk wells.

The Commission is now requiring that these wells all be plugged and abandoned, which will ensure they can never be reactivated.

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