Oil spilled at an Italian oil company's new Alaska oil field on the northern coast last Wednesday, 10 days after the field started production, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said today.
About 61 gallons of crude oil sprayed out of a flare vent, which is used to relieve pressure. Programmable circuits failed and crude oil was pushed through the flare and outside onto snow and gravel, the DEC said.
The DEC estimated the oil affected 60 cubic yards of snow and one cubic yard of gravel, all of which will have to be removed. Eni personnel had the area about 80 percent cleaned when DEC responders arrived.
The spill occurred at Eni's production facility for its new Nikaitchuq field, which started production Jan. 30, the DEC said. Although Nikaitchuq is an offshore field in the Beaufort Sea, this spill occurred onshore at Oliktok Point, where some production occurs.
Work at Eni's production wells continued throughout the incident.
Eni has drilled 12 wells and plans to drill a total of 52 by 2014. The Oliktok Point pad will tap oil from 22 wells; an offshore pad near Spy Island will tap the remaining 30.
The company expects the facility to produce for more than 30 years, with a peak of 28,000 barrels per day.
Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE