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Largest oil spill detected in Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska
by Steve Walters    EarthTimes.org
Entered into the database on Monday, March 13th, 2006 @ 16:09:32 MST


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An oil spill at the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska has turned out to be the biggest ever in the region, according to official estimates. Around 267,000 gallons (one million litres) of crude leaked out from a corroded transit pipeline near the northern tip of the state. This was detected on March 2 and was immediately plugged, but the spill could wreck havoc on the delicate environmental balance in the region.

The report on the spill prepared by Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation said that this was the worst disaster in the history of Trans-Alaska Pipeline system. "I can confirm it's the largest spill of crude oil on the North Slope that we have record of," said Linda Giguere of the department.

"It's a significant spill. The volume is large, but the footprint is small. It's contained and controlled, which is the really good news. Morale is high, despite the cold temperatures and harsh conditions." Till now workers had been able to recover 52,920 gallons of crude, it was reported. The site where the leak was discovered was owned by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.

A quarter-inch hole in the pipeline was responsible for the leak and as mentioned is thought to have been caused by corrosion. This plant handles around 100,000 barrels of oil daily and till the situation comes under control, an alternate pipeline is being used to drill about 5,000 barrels a day. This spill once again shifts the focus on President Bush's desire to drill for oil very near to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Environmentalists say this would spell disaster for the ecosystem in the area. Officials have also confirmed that another leak has been discovered, this time in a site belonging to ConocoPhillips. The volume of the leak has not yet been disclosed.