Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has upgraded the size of the spill at the BPXA West Operating Area, H Pad Well in Prudhoe Bay on Wednesday.
Originally, BP reported a spill area of approximately 27 acres after a six-inch pipe coming from the wellhead ruptured spraying natural gas and water containing crude oil burst and dispersed the mixture into the air over the tundra surrounding the plant on Monday afternoon.
The pipe burst occurred at approximately 2:30 pm on Monday afternoon, just after the well supplying the pipe returned to service. The spill was discovered during a routine inspection according to DEC. The pipe dispersed natural gas and oil-laced water for about two hours before the pipe could be depressurized and brought under control.
This spill is much smaller than the 2006 spill that also was caused by failed pipes in 2006. That spill spewed crude for five days before being brought under control. But, not before spilling an estimated 200,000 gallons of crude over the tundra. THis spill occurred about a mile away from that site.
It is unknown at this time exactly how much oil was dispersed in this latest incident and authorities will not have an estimate until the snow and ice in the affected area is collected and the oil is separated from it. That window of opportunity is rapidly closing as the snow and ice melts and migratory birds and other wildlife return from their annual migrations. So far, there are no signs of and fowl or other wildlife in the area.
Alaska Clean Seas is currently on the scene and working to contain and clean up the area.
Other than the fact that a pipe burst, BP and DEC have not isolated the exact cause of the incident.
Up until today, about 30 persons have been working the cleanup process during the day and about 15 during the night. Today, it is expected that approximately 40 will be on hand at the cleanup site during the day and about 20 during the nighttime shift.
DEC will distribute another report concerning the incident at 2 pm today according to their press release.