Lawmakers take a poke at the BP "pig"

| 9/11/2006

The device used for inspecting the inner workings of oil pipelines is called a “pig,” and BP hasn’t used one in its eastern line at Prudhoe Bay, AK, since 1992, according to testimony in front of a Congressional subcommittee.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee questioned BP officials Thursday about corrosion of the oil pipeline in March, and asked why it hadn’t been tested for years.

Some BP officials testified, including Richard Woollam, BP Exploration Alaska’s former manager of corrosion, inspection and chemicals, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Internal documents, according to Congressional reports, indicated that BP knew of the corrosion and the leak that spilled 270,000 gallons in March.

Robert Malone, BP president and chairman, said during the hearing that the eastern pipeline maintenance problem was “unacceptable.”

The line was shut down in August, while world oil markets reacted to the news that 8 percent of U.S. domestic production was going offline.

“For an oil company of BP’s size and reputation to allow two of its most critical transit lines, in America’s largest producing oil field, to reach such a sorry state of affairs is staggering,” Rep. John D. Dingell, D-MI, said in a statement published by the committee.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX, said he believed BP did not “pig” the lines as a matter of cost.

BP produces 400,000 barrels of oil per day at Prudhoe Bay. About half of the lines are still in production, producing 200,000 barrels daily, according to the Dow Jones Newswire.

More Congressional hearings were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.