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North Slope natural gas leak continues more than a week later

A natural gas leak at a ConocoPhillips Alaska-operated oilfield on the North Slope is ongoing after being detected more than a week ago.
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 9:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A natural gas leak at a ConocoPhillips Alaska-operated oilfield on the North Slope is ongoing after being detected more than a week ago, with both the cause and the amount of gas released still unknown.

The leak was first recorded on March 4 at the CD1 drill site at the Alpine Field. It’s operated by ConocoPhillips Alaska and located just 8 miles from the village of Nuiqsut. Since then, ConocoPhillips Alaska initially evacuated the majority of its employees from the Alpine Central Facility “out of an abundance of caution,” leaving essential personnel there to handle the leak.

ConocoPhillips Alaska has so far not provided a cause for the gas leak, and a situation report released Tuesday by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission stated that the volume of gas that’s been released so far is unknown.

The commission has not provided much input on the situation other than to say it was “closely monitoring” the leak.

“Based on its investigation to date, the Commission is unaware of any threats to public safety,” read a statement from Commission Chair Jeremy Price on March 8. “As this matter is ongoing and an investigation is underway, the Commission cannot comment further at this time.”

According to Tuesday’s situation report, the gas release was first observed from the ground at a well house at the CD1 drill site. Along with the release of an unknown amount of natural gas, 590 gallons of saline water have been released as well.

No injuries have been reported to date and ConocoPhillips Alaska has said that no gas has been detected off of the pad at the CD1 drill site. The situation report states that ConocoPhillips Alaska is performing well integrity tests and monitoring the air and wells for gas releases.

The company said on March 12 that it was warming up a rig “in preparation to proactively address source mitigation” of the gas release. In a subsequent release on Tuesday, the company wrote that employees that were previously evacuated are now returning to the Alpine Central Facility as a drilling rig is being warmed up to address the leak.

Regular operational flights to Alpine will resume on Wednesday, ConocoPhillips Alaska said, and the company is offering in-person tours of a monitoring site to residents of Nuiqsut.

Some people who live there, however, were concerned when the initial employee evacuation from Alpine took place, and the mayor of Nuiqsut previously said that some families chose to leave the area.

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