BP's Prudhoe Bay Operations Center. Photo: Bloomberg / Getty Images

By Zahra Hirji and Jason Leopold
20 October 2017

(BuzzFeed News) – At least 27 accidents happened at BP’s oil and gas operations in Alaska this year, including five that risked the lives of dozens of workers, BuzzFeed News has learned.

Now BP’s top officials are scrambling to “reset” the company’s safety culture before one of these scares turns into a human or environmental catastrophe on the Alaskan North Slope, according to internal emails, recordings, interviews, and other documentation obtained by BuzzFeed News.

On Sept. 10, for example, two workers responding to faulty equipment inside a building at a drill site inadvertently triggered a leak of 1,200 kilograms of gas, one of several serious accidents that have not been publicly reported before now. Fortunately, the two employees escaped uninjured. But it had the potential to be a deadly explosion.

“If there had been an ignition source, we might have lost colleagues,” BP Alaska President Janet Weiss wrote in an email to Team Alaska, the workforce in the state, on 12 September 2017. “We must change now; we must have a reset,” Weiss added.

She sent another urgent plea to staff two weeks later. “Our safety performance — both process and personal — is not where it should be and no other business objective is more important,” Weiss wrote in an email to Alaska staff on 27 September 2017. […]

“BP management recognizes the many recent critical incidents we’ve experienced will lead to a death,” a longtime employee told BuzzFeed News. “We are making the same mistakes we made 40 years ago.”

Since the company started drilling in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, its operations in Alaska and elsewhere have resulted in a series of devastating accidents. Explosions at a Texas City refinery in 2005 killed 15 people and injured 180 more. Following a 2006 oil spill in Prudhoe Bay, the company had to pay millions in fees. […]

By Sept. 12, BP Alaska had experienced at least 27 incidents in 2017, compared to 23 in all of 2016, according to one of Weiss’s emails. And this year has already seen more events resulting in toxic spills and leaks — called A-G LOPC events, for “loss of primary containment.”

Five of these toxic releases were classified as risky “Tier 1 events.” In BP’s 2016 US Economic Impact Report, these events were described as “the most consequential events involving an unplanned or uncontrolled release of materials.” The 2006 oil spill in Prudhoe Bay, for example, was Tier 1.

“I’m deeply concerned that with these trends, we are not in a stable state,” Weiss wrote in the Sept. 12 email.

Weiss later shared a PowerPoint slide listing the five Tier 1 episodes. The first, on March 19, involved about 37 gallons of crude oil spilling inside one company building. Two weeks later, on March 30, a 352-gallon outdoor oil spill happened at a different location.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed to BuzzFeed News that BP Alaska did report the March 30 event. Officials said the earlier, smaller spill did not require reporting.

On April 14, as reported in several media outlets, workers discovered a major gas leak several miles outside of the Alaskan town of Deadhorse. BP alerted officials. The response team — involving company workers, outside consultants, local officials, and federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency — took about three days to “kill” the well and halt its two leaks. About 45,000 kilograms of gas was released into the atmosphere and 63 gallons of crude oil spilled, according to the company’s preliminary investigation, filed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) on June 27.  [more]

A String Of Dangerous Accidents In Alaska Sends BP Reeling, Emails Show

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