BP hits more snafus in Prudhoe Bay

Beleaguered oil giant BP has halted leak testing on pipelines in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oil field after learning that workers may have been exposed to asbestos. Since a major spill in the oil field in early March, as many as 200 workers have been stripping insulation off of corroded pipelines to ready them for leak testing. Asbestos, which can cause lung disease or cancer if inhaled, was found in concentrations of 5 to 10 percent in the tarlike resin between the insulation and the pipe. Work will be suspended pending an assessment of health risk and determination of whether further safety equipment or training is needed. Meanwhile, a major BP processing plant broke down on Wednesday, dropping Prudhoe production to nearly one-quarter its normal output of 400,000 barrels of oil a day. Fixing the mechanical failure could take several days, costing Alaska roughly $1.5 million a day in oil taxes and royalties. BP executives were hiding under their desks and unavailable for comment.