Better corrosion monitoring would have helped BP

BP Exploration Alaska Inc. is looking into whether to shutdown or drastically reduce production at the Prudhoe Bay oil field to repair pipeline corrosion damage. Shutdown could reduce oil production by 400,000 barrels a day and seems likely to increase U.S. gas prices. In August, BP executives admitted to inadequate monitoring of the pipe's condition even though technologies exist that could h...

By Staff September 1, 2006

BP Exploration Alaska Inc. is looking into whether to shutdown or drastically reduce production at the Prudhoe Bay oil field to repair pipeline corrosion damage. Shutdown could reduce oil production by 400,000 barrels a day and seems likely to increase U.S. gas prices.

In August, BP executives admitted to inadequate monitoring of the pipe’s condition even though technologies exist that could have warned of developing problems much earlier. Inside pipeline testing using a smart pig revealed 16 anomalies in 12 locations in the transit line on the eastern side of the field.

“We based our corrosion program in cooperation with agencies in what we thought was an adequate program,” said Bob Malone, chairman and president of BP America. “Clearly it is not. In replacing the lines, what we hope to do is enhance that program so that they can have cleaning pigs go through and then ultrasonic pigs go through, so that we can further enhance the program we have been using.”

Corrosion can be caused by water, gas, and sediments sticking to the walls of the transit lines. Since May, BP said, the pipes had been completely cleaned, or pigged, to determine line condition. Prior to that, the line had not been pigged since 1992. The current plan was lacking in surveillance, monitoring, and corrosion prevention, company officials suggested. Search on corrosion atop www.controleng.com for related articles. See also BP’s response at https://usresponse.bp.com/go/site/1249/ .