A damaged BP well on Alaska’s North Slope is no longer spraying crude oil, although workers still haven’t been able to stop the uncontrolled venting of natural gas from the well.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said in an incident report Sunday that the crude oil spray does not appear to have spread beyond the snow-covered drilling pad around the well.
But BP, whose public image is still recovering from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, was still putting together a plan for plugging the well. Experts from Boots and Coots, a well control company, were arriving at the site Sunday to help devise plans to kill and plug the well.
“There have been no injuries and no reports of harm to wildlife,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said Saturday. “Safety will remain our highest priority as we work through this process.”
It isn’t clear what caused the leaking well, which is an oil and natural gas production well near the airport for Deadhorse, a town devoted to serving the giant Prudhoe Bay oil fields that began producing 40 years ago. Because there is no pipeline for natural gas from Prudhoe Bay, companies pump oil and inject gas back into the wells.
An earlier report by the Alaska DEC said that the pressure in the well had caused the well assembly and equipment to rise three to four feet, hampering efforts to shut off the gas leak.
On Saturday night, responders from BP, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation were able to connect hoses to valves and bleed pressure from the space surrounding the well’s underground steel pipe.
The responders were working in tough conditions with temperatures no higher than 14 degrees Fahrenheit; a weather advisory warned of limited visibility and winds that could gust up to 40 miles per hour on Sunday.
The Native American community of Nuiqsut, about 50 miles west of the well, has been notified of the incident.