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BP Weighs Answers to Alaskan Pipeline Corrosion

A surveyor records results from a pipeline sonogram. Walls with less than 20 percent of their original thickness are flagged.
Scott Horsley/NPR
A surveyor records results from a pipeline sonogram. Walls with less than 20 percent of their original thickness are flagged.

Operators of Alaska's giant Prudhoe Bay oil field scramble to inspect pipelines for signs of corrosion, as they try to decide whether it's safe to keep pumping oil from parts of the field.

BP has already shut down about half of Prudhoe Bay, after discovering a small oil spill last weekend, when about 630 gallons of crude oil leaked.

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski and other officials toured the Prudhoe Bay oil pipelines, which have been crippled by corrosion problems discovered this week. The threat of a stoppage also endangers Alaska's budget: Oil taxes account for more than 90 percent of its revenues.

For now, workers in hazmat suits have contained the oil in an area about one-quarter the size of a football field, where they're attempting to sponge the oil from the grassy tundra.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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