Workers relieve pressure on leaking Alaska oil well

No people were at the well when it burst, and no injuries have been reported.

The well is too risky at this time for a response team made up of state and federal energy officials and BP employees to get near the well. They still don't know what caused the spill.

The U.K. company didn't say how much oil or natural gas may have spilled.

ADEC said of the two identified leaks, the one near the top is not actively leaking anymore, "The bottom leak has been reduced, but is now leaking gas".

In general, oil companies have been producing oil and pumping associated natural gas back into reservoirs.

The total amount of oil spilled and whether the crude affected the snow-covered tundra nearby isn't yet clear, though authorities have expressed confidence the crude contamination is contained with a gravel area directly surrounding the well site. Oil was spraying from a leak near the top of the well.

"The top leak was misting oil in conjunction with releasing natural gas", the department said, but "the activation of the surface safety valve has stopped the release from that point".

Alaskan North Slope crude was valued at $1.90 a barrel over USA benchmark West Texas Intermediate on April 13.

Pressure in the well was monitored all night and excess pressure released from the well. Continuous air monitoring has been established around the well, and the situation remained stable overnight.

The Unified Command continues working to formulate a plan to bring the well under control. ADEC and U.S. EPA are coordinating with BPXA and the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to investigate the cause of the discharge, following the securing of the well. The infamous Exxon Valdez, which in 1989 spilled tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Alaska, was carrying oil extracted from Prudhoe Bay.

  • Wendy Palmer