Alaska regulators on Wednesday ordered ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. to pay nearly $1 million in penalties for a well blowout that led to a weekslong release of natural gas and a brief evacuation at the company’s Alpine oil field.
The order issued by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Wednesday makes final a proposed civil penalty of $913,796.80 announced on June 28. ConocoPhillips, which did not appeal the findings issued last month, has 10 days to pay the total, the AOGCC said.
The penalty is one of the largest assessed by the commission.
The order brings to a close the AOGCC’s investigation into the gas release at the CD1 well site in the Alpine field, one of the largest in Alaska. The release was discovered on March 4, 2022, and traced to freeze-protection well work done in the days prior.
The commission’s investigation concluded that ConocoPhillips had committed five separate violations that led to or followed what was determined to be a shallow blowout that sent gas streaming through multiple places, including through cracks in the drill site’s gravel pad.
Among the most serious of the violations was a failure to use cement to seal the well’s outer rim in a geologic zone that the company assumed did not contain hydrocarbons. ConocoPhillips had evidence that the zone, called Halo, contained gas, but it opted against protecting the well against gas intrusions, the AOGCC investigation report said.
ConocoPhillips has estimated that the event caused 7.2 million cubic feet of natural gas to stream into the atmosphere. An additional 23.3 million cubic feet of gas was released but captured, the company told the AOGCC.
A ConocoPhillips spokesperson said the company did not dispute the penalty and has made improvements since last year’s event.
“ConocoPhillips has incorporated the learnings from this incident into our operations, and we appreciate the AOGCC’s diligence. We look forward to working constructively with the AOGCC in our ongoing development operations. We recognize that it is a privilege to operate on the North Slope and in Alaska,” company spokesperson Rebecca Boys said by email.
Originally published by the Alaska Beacon, an independent, nonpartisan news organization that covers Alaska state government.