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.