Dating north slope crude oil

Major Oil Spill Disclosed In Alaska

The estimated spill size of 201,000 to 267,000 gallons far surpasses the 38,000 gallons spilled in 2001, but is much less than the 11 million gallons spilled in Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989.

"I can confirm it's the largest spill of crude oil on the North Slope that we have record of," said Linda Giguere with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The state has kept comprehensive records of oil spills for a decade, with more cursory record-keeping dating to the 1970s, when the trans-Alaska oil pipeline was built.

The estimate was based on a survey conducted this week at the site operated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. where the leak was discovered March 2.

The source of the spill was a quarter-inch hole apparently caused by corrosion inside the three-mile line that leads to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

To date, workers have recovered 52,920 gallons of crude. The effort has been slowed in recent days by extreme cold; the wind chill factor dipped to more than 70 degrees below zero. But Giguere said the spill was relatively well contained, covering less than two acres.

"It's a significant spill. The volume is large, but the footprint is small," Giguere said. "It's contained and controlled, which is the really good news. Morale is high, despite the cold temperatures and harsh conditions."

BP's plant is about 650 miles north of Anchorage. Full production is not expected to resume for at least two weeks, BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said earlier this week.

The North Slope is the region between the Brooks Range and the Arctic Ocean and contains most of Alaska's petroleum reserves.

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Ban Ends on Export of North Slope Crude

Energy: Clinton says free movement of Alaskan oil will benefit the U.S. Experts' opinions are mixed.

WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Sunday ended a 23-year-old ban against exporting Alaska North Slope crude oil.

"Permitting this oil to move freely in international commerce will contribute to economic growth, reduce dependence on imported oil and create new jobs for American workers," Clinton said in a written statement released at the White House.

The action comes after Clinton signed legislation late last year permitting Alaska North Slope oil exports if they were found to be in the nation's best interest.

Clinton said lifting the ban will generate as many as 25,000 more jobs for Americans in California and Alaska and will boost oil production in the area by about 100,000 barrels a day.

The move will also bring in about $2 billion in additional state and federal taxes by the turn of the century, according to Energy Department figures.

The presidential directive includes a requirement that tankers exporting the oil stay outside environmentally sensitive areas along the Aleutian Islands, that they be equipped with satellite communications systems and are inspected to ensure they are in safe working order.

Clinton did not say how much oil is produced in the area now.

The legislation also waives federal royalty payments for some new deep-water drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico and requires the government to sell the Alaska Power Authority. The incentives are limited to offshore Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Deep-water areas off the coast of Florida are excluded.

Exports of Alaskan crude--both fresh output and oil from storage--will now be allowed by British Petroleum Co. and other oil producers as long as the oil is carried on tankers with American crews and flags. The ships need not be U.S.-built, but they will be subject to yearly inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Analysts predict the change will have little effect on world oil prices, though it could affect local markets. West Coast refiners in particular could see costs go up if British Petroleum ships large amounts of oil to Asia.

California drillers say they will benefit from the measure. If some Alaskan oil is exported, they say, prices for California crude will rise and drillers will tackle costlier projects.

Supporters of the ban disagree. They say that lifting it will increase the nation's dependence on foreign oil, raise costs for small West Coast refiners and boost gasoline prices for California drivers.

Alaskan lawmakers have been fighting the ban for more than two decades. It was enacted in the 1970s to keep Alaskan oil in the U.S., which at the time faced an energy crisis.

"I told President Clinton that the export ban was relic of the past and needed to be lifted," Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said Sunday. "His action today is a historic moment for Alaska."

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