CUI Major Incident# 13: Prudehoe Bay Oil Spill

cui incidents Sep 21, 2020

Date and Place of Incident:

On 29th September 2008, a high-pressure gas pipeline ruptured at the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska

Summary of the Incident:

The pipeline burst, propelling two sections of pipe, 14 feet and 28 feet in length, 900 feet across the tundra which caused the spill of 5000 barrels of crude oil on Alaska North slope.

Root Cause:

  • The major cause for pipeline burst was of corrosion under insulation
  • The sludge helped breed acidic bacteria and corrosion that ultimately ruptured pipe. The corrosion developed in the large trunk lines but surprisingly much water mixed with the oil was not carried in pipeline. But it was known that sediment was collecting and that leak technology would not work if the lines were not periodically cleaned. 

Financial loss to freedom Industry:

The plant was fined of US$20 million and led to shutdown

Fatality and Injury:

No fatality and injury was reported in the incident.

Environmental impact of Incident:

 The largest oil spill reported till date on Alaska North slope and the leak last for five-day of up to 267,000 US gallons were spilled over 1.9 acres.

Non-Compliance of Safety Guidelines and Reliability Practices:

  • Improper inspection of corrosion pipe line
  • Lack of following the safety programs to prevent oil spill
  • Lack of leak detection point and its reason.

Recommendation to Avoid Corrosion:

  • Proper safety programs to prevent incident such as oil spill
  • Corrosion safety programs such as cathodic protection, coating or painting and wall thickening to avoid corrosion under insulation
  • Periodic inspection to avoid corrosion and quick detection policies in case of emergency.

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