State-ordered investigation following BP leak finds no additional problem wells

Image taken on April 18, 2017, showing the area of crude spray near BP’s well. (Photo by Jade Gamble, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A state-ordered review of thousands of oil wells on the North Slope is complete, following a multi-day oil and gas leak at one of BP’s facilities last spring.

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The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) found no additional wells that could lead to a similar accident, according to commissioner Cathy Foerster.

The state called for oil companies to review all North Slope wells after BP’s internal investigation found five of its producing wells had a similar design to the one that failed. Companies were required to complete the investigation by Dec. 31.

The failure happened after thawing permafrost put uneven stress on the well, causing the wellhead to shoot up and knock off a valve, which then spewed oil and gas. Foerster says the permafrost thaw was unrelated to climate change and was caused by the heat of the oil being recovered.

AOGCC is changing its regulations as a result of the accident.

“We are in the process of amending our regulations to prohibit that specific well geometry,” Foerster said.