Officials unsure what caused oil line break

July 18, 2011 at 8:05 PM

ANCHORAGE, Ala., July 18 (UPI) -- State environment officials say they are investigating why an oil pipeline on Alaska's North Slope burst during pressure testing, causing a spill.

Workers in buildings close by said they could feel the ground shake from the force of the pipeline breaking Saturday, Anchorage Daily News reported.

The Department of Environmental Conservation said BP Exploration Inc., operator of the pipeline, estimates 2,100 to 4,200 gallons of fluid, mostly methanol and other fluids with some amount of crude oil, spilled from the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The break happened at a part of the pipeline enclosed in a larger shell for extra security as it passes under a road.

BP had shut down the line to replace corroded valves used for testing oil pumped out of wells. After new valves had been put on the line, workers began testing the pressure system, which failed at 949 pounds per square inch.

Most of the fluids were blown into a gravel pit, making cleanup easier, Tom DeRuyter, on-scene coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said. However, some got into a small pond, which had to be pumped for cleaning.

As of Sunday, 630 gallons of fluids had been recouped.

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