BP Exploration Inc. has paid $1.7 million to the state due to inadequate oil spill protection measures at Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope oil fields, state officials announced Tuesday.
BP and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation last month signed two compliance agreements to resolve violations of state regulations discovered during routine inspections in 2007, according to the DEC.
BP said Tuesday that it worked with the DEC to find and fix the violations.
The initial inspections showed that at least three BP spill containment areas didn't meet the capacity requirements spelled out in state rules. As part of the settlement negotiations with the DEC, BP surveyed all of its secondary containment areas and found 16 others that violated the capacity requirements, according to the DEC.
The violations occurred at the Prudhoe Bay, Endicott and Badami oil fields -- in truck loading areas and at oil field storage tanks. The tanks, for example, hold thousands of gallons of fuel, oily waste or snowmelt and their spill containment structures are berms that prevent tank leaks from spilling onto the tundra.
It's a "big deal" if the berms can't adequately contain a spill, said DEC program manager Betty Schorr.
BP officials agreed. "Proper secondary containment areas are important precautions," said Steve Rinehart, a BP spokesman.
The agency said BP has corrected most of the violations. The three remaining violations will be fixed by September 2010, Rinehart said.
Schorr said it's unclear how long the containment areas were out of compliance. She said the berms could have been built too small, or perhaps they eroded away over time.
In several cases, BP's capacity to contain a spill was about 10 percent below what state rules required, according to the settlement's legal filings.
This settlement is unrelated to the state's ongoing lawsuit against BP seeking damages related to the major, corrosion-related oil spills at Prudhoe in 2006.