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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: BP Exploration (Alaska), Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

The BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc. (BPXA) Prudhoe Bay facility is an oil and gas production facility located on the North Slope of Alaska. There is a hazardous waste storage unit at the facility. Production activities at various locations across the site have led to the release of hazardous waste and hazardous constituents to the environment.

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Site History and Cleanup Status

A comprehensive RCRA corrective action 3008(h) Order Under Consent (Order) was issued for the facility in October, 2007. The Order requires submission of multiple RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) work plans and reports, followed by Corrective Measure Studies (CMSs), and, as needed Corrective Measure Implementation (CMI). RCRA corrective action work at the facility is anticipated to continue throughout the life of the oil field. A standardized RCRA permit was issued in 2009. The permit includes conditions for the management of the hazardous waste storage unit and cites the Order for the requirements to achieve the facility’s corrective action obligations.

The Order has identified more than two thousand (2000) solid waste management units (SWMUs). There have been releases from some of these SWMUs which have resulted in exceedences of the Tier II Action Levels in groundwater, surface water and soils at the facility. (Tier II Action Levels can be found in the Site-Wide Project Work Plan – Part III, Revised Site-Wide Conceptual Site Model and Screening Levels, 2017.)

RFIs have been progressing at three sites: Tuboscope; Sand Dunes Landfill; and the former Pad 13 Waste pile. Clean up activities at BP/Prudhoe Bay have included pump and treat; removal; and treatability studies involving nanotechnology (nZVI) and bioremediation.

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Site Description

The BP/Prudhoe Bay facility is an oil field of approximately 388 square miles on the North Slope of Alaska. The location is isolated and very sparsely populated. The nearest residential area is the Alaskan Native Village of Nuiqsut, which is 60 miles west of Prudhoe Bay. The Arctic location of this site greatly impacts facility operations as well as waste management and corrective action. Transportation can be difficult. The area is classified as Arctic desert, cold and dry. Permafrost underlies the site to a depth of approximately 2000 feet. Structures (buildings, roads, production wells, etc.) must be built on 5 or more feet of gravel to prevent thawing of the ground and settling. The active zone (up to three feet below ground surface) thaws briefly each summer. There is very low topographic relief and numerous shallow lakes form seasonally on the tundra. There are 56 days of darkness in midwinter. The ecosystem is acutely fragile.

Petroleum exploration in the Arctic began in the 1920s. Oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay in 1968. The oil field opened for large scale development with the completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1977. The Prudhoe Bay oil field is operated by BP and is situated on state-owned land which is leased and managed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Oil production is ongoing at the facility. Production fluids (oil, gas, and water) are extracted from the wells and are separated in processing plants. Oil is routed to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Produced water is re-injected into the formation to help maintain reservoir pressure and enhance further oil recovery. The gas is sent down the pipeline with the crude oil (natural gas liquids), injected into the gas cap for enhanced oil recovery, or used for local fuel.

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Contaminants at this Facility

Contaminants at this facility are those associated with oil and gas production (petroleum hydrocarbons, freeze inhibitors, drilling fluid additives), as well as contaminants used in the management of a very large facility (jet fuel, lubricants, chlorinated solvents). Specific contaminants include benzene, toluene, ethelbenzene, xylene, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, methanol, 1,4-Dioxane, naphthalenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), perfluorinated compounds, barium and other metals.

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Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

There are currently no institutional or engineering controls associated with the RCRA order or permit at this facility.

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Land Reuse Information at this Facility

There is currently no land reuse associated with the RCRA order or permit at this facility.

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Regulatory Authority

RCRA Corrective Action activities at this facility are being conducted under the direction of EPA Region 10, pursuant to the 2007 RCRA Corrective Action [3008(h)] Order issued to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. (see Administrative Order on Consent; EPA Docket Number RCRA-10-2007-0222 under "Documents" below).

Additionally, the 2009 Hazardous Waste Management Facility Standardized Permit (see RCRA Permit under “Documents” below) issued to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. includes conditions governing the Corrective Action of releases from solid waste management units. The 2007 Order is incorporated by reference into the 2009 RCRA Permit.


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