Alaska North Slope oil well leaking gas gets plugged

An oil well leaking natural gas on Alaska’s North Slope has been successfully plugged, according to private and government responders.

BP Exploration Alaska Inc. confirmed Monday that its well five miles from the airport at Deadhorse was successfully “killed” overnight. The method of plugging the well was not immediately announced.

BP Exploration Alaska is a subsidiary of BP. Employees on Friday morning discovered uncontrolled natural gas flowing from the top of a well house, a metal structure that looks like a large box over a well.

About 45 minutes later, they determined that the well was spraying a mist of crude oil into the air.

BP reported the leak and set up a joint response team with state, federal and municipal responders.

A weekend statement from the “unified command” said two leaks were detected. Oil was spraying from a leak near the top of the well. Workers contained that leak by activating a safety valve.

Oil droplets were confirmed on about 1.5 acres of the drill pad, responders said. They were waiting for the well to be plugged to determine if oil reached nearby snow-covered tundra.

Responders determined the well had risen 3 to 4 feet, causing a pressure gauge to break off and preventing responders from pumping material into the well to kill it.

Responders on Saturday night were able to enter the well house and connect hoses to valves. That allowed the bleeding off of gas from space around the well’s below-ground piping and a reduction in gas pressure.

The nearest village, Nuiqsut (noo-IK-sit), is 50 miles away.

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