ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Officials believe that ice plugged up a pipeline and likely caused a rupture that sent 46,000 gallons of crude oil and water gushing onto snow-covered tundra on Alaska's North Slope late last month.
The ruptured pipeline, which is about 5 feet above the ground, is not affecting production from the Prudhoe Bay oil field, North America's largest oil
BP is currently on probation for the 2006 spill after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor conviction and paying $20 million in fines and restitution. That spill was blamed on corrosion in a pipeline.
Rinehart said ice plugs can form in pipelines and occasionally are a problem, even sometimes ending in a rupture.
"They are a feature of operating in the Arctic," he said. "You try not to have them happen. When they do, you deal with them."