Prudhoe Bay well continues venting gas

Natural gas continues to seep from a Prudhoe Bay well that sprayed crude oil and vented gas beginning Friday, a state environmental agency said Sunday.

Employees with BP Alaska discovered an "uncontrolled gas release" from the top of a well, as well as what the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation described as an "initial spray" of crude oil caused by the venting gas, on Friday.

On Saturday night, workers were able to enter the wellhouse and bleed off pressure from the well, the DEC said in a Sunday situation report.

There are two leaks on the well: one near the top, and one farther down. The top leak was halted with activation of a safety valve; the lower leak "has been reduced but is currently leaking gas," the situation report said.

BP was working to plug the top leak, the result of a damaged pressure gauge, according to the situation report.

"The plan needs to be implemented before well killing operations can take place," the report said.

There have been no reports of impact on wildlife, and no evaluation of whether the spraying oil may have reached snow-covered tundra beyond the gravel wellhead pad, the report said. The DEC has not estimated how much crude oil sprayed from the well.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.