Workers relieve pressure on leaking Alaska oil well

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State officials said a cleanup will begin once the release has been controlled.

On Friday, employees of BP Exploration Alaska discovered an uncontrolled gas leak in an oil and gas well on Alaska's North Slope, near the community of Deadhorse.

BP, whose Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out and caused the largest oil spill in USA history, has responded to questions about the well, but information was limited and there was no estimate about volumes of natural gas and oil released.

BP spokesman Brett Clanton says that "based on an overflight with infrared cameras, the release appears to be contained to the gravel pad surrounding the wellhead and has not reached the tundra". The bottom leak is now leaking gas as well as some minor amount of crude oil. "There have been no reports of impacted wildlife".

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Fossil fuel companies have long eyed portions of Alaska's North Slope now off-limits to oil and gas production, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to over 200 species of migratory birds and the last onshore area for polar bear dens. This last March, daily output in the area hit 565,000 bpd - the highest in more than three years. Specialists deployed by Boots and Coots, a well control company, were arriving in the area yesterday to help seal the well. BP and other groups were still working on a response plan for the leak on Sunday, according to the report.

The Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which runs from Prudhoe Bay south to Valdez, is not affected by the incident and is operating normally. Alyeska is a joint partnership led by the North Slope's top producers, BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

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