BP's Prudhoe Bay Western Field Work Slowed by Asbestos Fears

Repairs to equipment last weekend have restored total production from BP Prudhoe Bay operation to more than 200,000 barrels per day, the company said in a press release. Earlier, the shutdown of a gathering compressor had slowed production to about 110,000 barrels per day. BP also reported the completion of ultrasonic inspections of approximately 2,500 feet of pipe in their Eastern Operating Area (EOA) and approximately 5,300 feet of pipe in the Western Operating Area (WOA). No additional problems were noted.

After removing more than 15,000 feet of insulation from oil transit lines in the Eastern Operating Area (EOA), BP stopped the removal of insulation from the Western Operating Area (WOA) oil transit lines “in order to evaluate the potential for exposure of workers to material containing asbestos.” The oil giant says that the insulating material was originally installed in the late 1970s.

Despite the latest setback, the WOA transit line will continue to operate while BP determines how to best handle the potentially hazardous material. The asbestos is reportedly isolated in the WOA. BP officials gave no indication of how much of a delay that the latest snag would present. The insulation was being stripped away to allow BP workers to restore the Prudhoe Bay operation to full production.

BP’s latest update also announced that some 16 miles of pipeline intended to replace existing transit lines at Prudhoe Bay had been ordered from U.S. mills, with delivery of the material expected in the fourth quarter of this year. EOA oil production remains offline until repairs to the corrosion discovered earlier this month can be effected. Nevertheless, BP maintained on August 29 that their West Coast refining and marketing system remained adequately supplied in the short term and that “no disruptions of crude or fuel supplies are expected at this time.”

Elsewhere, The Daily Telegraph (LONDON) reported that BP Shipping had paid a record $220,300 toll for the express transit of an oil tanker through the Panama Canal. The canal is said to be is facing a backlog of traffic following some maintenance work and the BP tanker was thought to be one of six hauling crude oil to the U.S. west coast in an effort to bridge the gap created by the reduced Alaskan production.