Global Processing

Congressmen launch inquiry into Trans-Alaska pipeline spill

April 10, 2006

Two congressmen are starting their own investigation into the North Slope''s largest pipeline spill ever, and wonder whether the corrosion that may have caused the leak has reached the main 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline. According to the Associated Press, Democratic representatives John Dingell of Michigan and George Miller of California are dispatching Christopher Knauer, the minority investigator of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to Alaska next week. They are also asking the head of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. whether the chemical additives suspected to have caused the corrosion could have reached the main pipeline from the leaking feeder line. The spill was discovered March 2 in a pipeline between two gathering centers in the Prudhoe Bay oil field. As much as 270,000 gallons of crude spilled over an estimated five-day period. Last week, Dingell and Miller sent Steve Marshall, president of BP PLC subsidiary BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., a list of questions on the cause of the leak and the corrosion testing the company had conducted. Marshall sent the congressmen an 18-page response on Monday. In it, Marshall said the investigation is not complete, but "recent and aggressive internal corrosion is the likely cause of the leak." State environmental regulators and BP officials have said a possible contributor to the corrosion an emulsion-breaking additive in the line.