Oil, gas spills from well house leak Prudhoe Bay

Well killed, Unified Command continues investigation

A well house leak at Prudhoe Bay that resulted in an uncontrolled gas release and a crude oil spray from the well top is under investigation.

As of April 17, BP Alaska Well 3 was no longer venting as, which cased an initial spray of crude oil on the gravel well pad, according to the Unified Command Joint Information Center.

The well was killed early that morning by pumping in salt water, offsetting upward pressure, and pressure was to be maintained by BPXA until a mechanical plug was installed, according to the Unified Command, which included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the North Slope Borough and BP Exploration Alaska.

The leak at the BP Alaska Well 3, about five miles from the Deadhorse Airport, was discovered on the morning of April 14 by BP employees, who reported the crude spray coming from the top of the well house to state and federal authorities.

While the crude oil spray has stopped, the well continued to vent gas, the EPA said.

A Forward Looking Infrared, or FLIR overflight showed that the crude spray plume did not leave the bad, but the situation was not safe for responders to access the area and confirm any impact to adjacent tundra, the EPA said. There were no reports of injuries to wildlife.


Two leaks were identified on the well, one near the top and one further down the well assembly. The top leak was misting oil in conjunction with releasing natural gas, but activation of the surface safety valve had stopped the release from this point. The bottom leak was continuing to leak gas as well as some minor amount of crude oil, the EPA said.  The well structure is housed in a metal “well house” which was helping to contain any oil spray.

Responders attempted to secure the well on the evening of April 15, but were unsuccessful due to safety concerns and damage to a well pressure gauge. Then on

April 16, responders from the well control contractor, Boots and Coots, were able to enter the well house and place a plug in the damaged above ground piping coming off the well head. The plugging of the damaged above ground piping allowed for responders to pump a saltwater solution into the well.

The Unified Command said it planned to review BP’s plans for placing a mechanical plug at the damaged section of the downhole pipe. Once the well was secured downhole, BP’s plan was to work with their oil spill response organization, Alaska Clean Seas, to delineate the impacted area.

Cause of the discharge was not known. ADEC and EPA were coordinating with BP and the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to investigate the cause of the discharge, following the securing of the well, the EPA said.