Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 11 News List

BP says leak won't stop its pumping in Alaskan oil field


BP Plc said late on Friday that it would continue to pump oil from part of a giant field in Alaska, where a corroded pipeline sprang a leak last week, and aimed to raise output to 200,000 barrels per day.

BP America chairman Bob Malone said the British energy giant had doubled its spot inspections of a 8km segment of the pipeline serving the western part of Prudhoe Bay, the US' largest oil field.

"The results have been encouraging and have increased our confidence in the operational integrity of this pipeline," he said in a statement.

"With greatly enhanced surveillance and response capability, I am confident we can continue to safely operate the line."

When operating at full capacity, Prudhoe Bay pumps out 400,000 barrels of oil a day -- 8.0 percent of total US daily output.

After the pipeline leak was discovered a week ago, BP started scrambling to shut down the entire field while it upgraded ageing infrastructure dating from the late 1970s.

Oil prices shot up on Monday on news of the BP leak, with Brent crude striking a fresh record high of US$78.64 per barrel.

But crude futures have since retreated, helped by signs that BP's problems in Alaska may not be as bad as initially feared.

The company late on Thursday won a green light from the US government to continue operations from the western part of Prudhoe Bay, provided it followed stringent checks mandated by the Department of Transportation.

BP said current production from the stricken field was now 150,000 barrels per day, including natural gas liquids.

That was expected to increase to 200,000 barrels per day after completion of a planned maintenance shutdown on an operating center, it said.

The company said it would complete the installation of 26km of new oil transit line at Prudhoe Bay by early next year, with a review to then reopening the eastern half.

The decision to continue production from the western half was taken after more than 1,400 ultrasonic inspections of the section of pipeline, BP said.

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