Its not just BP who is worried about corrosion on Alaska’s North Slope. After seeing BP’s reputation ravaged this year, Conoco Phillips has stepped up its efforts to prevent corrosion-related leaks in its own Alaska pipelines.
According to federal documents, Conoco has intensified its use of pipe cleaners, known as pigs, in the Kuparuk River oil field, which is the US’s third-largest oil field. Until recently, Conoco ran the pigs through the pipelines every six months, but after BP’s problems, the company switched to a monthly pigging schedule. It also went to a “more aggressive” type of pig to better scrape sediment or other solid material out of the pipes, Conoco has told the federal officials.
Regulators suspect sediment buildup was a factor behind severe corrosion inside major pipelines in the BP-run Prudhoe Bay oil field, which lies just east of Kuparuk.
So far no serious corrosion has reportedly been found in Conoco’s pipelines, although at least one Kuparuk pipeline this year developed actual holes — four of them in all, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Because of the holes, some 500 gallons of oily water leaked onto the tundra.
Although the leak made news it was overshadowed by the far larger BP oil spill discovered a week earlier in Prudhoe.