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News // Crime

BP 'finds widespread problems at Alaska oilfield'

09 November 2001 , 09:34531
BP is reported to have discovered widespread operational problems at its Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska.

The Wall Street Journal quotes company officials as saying a seven-week review, carried out over the summer, found deficiencies ranging from lack of maintenance on safety equipment to reports of chronic valve leaks.

BP operates the Prudhoe Bay field on behalf of a consortium that includes Exxon Mobil and Phillips Petroleum.

Steve Marshall, president of the BP Exploration in Alaska, says: "The report makes clear the need to continue to improve both the operation and maintenance of the field to keep it safe in the future."

The newspaper says the findings underscore concerns of critics of President George W Bush's proposal to drill in the Actric refuge.

These critics claimed oil industry practices were too slipshod for such an important wilderness area.

BP investigators state that they discovered "large and growing" maintenance backlogs on fire and gas-detection systems and pressure-safety valves.

Some of the deficiencies were identified by a BP contractor in 1999, without being evaluated or corrected.

Investigators also found that internal "leak-through" of oil-isolation valves, including those designed to shut down or divert oil and gas in the pipeline, "is a significant problem and, under certain circumstances, may pose a potential hazard to workers and equipment".

Activist Chuck Hamel, spokesman for a group of unnamed workers which first aired the safety problems, relayed a statement from them which states: "Until we see real changes, we remain sceptical."


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