BP working to control damaged oil well in Alaska

UK oil giant BP has been engaged in controlling a damaged oil well on Alaska's remote North Slope over the weekend, after the well started venting natural gas vapours on Friday morning, according to the company and Alaska officials.

Though no injuries or damage to wildlife had been reported, crews trying to secure the well had failed amid biting winds blowing up to 38 miles an hour.

Alaskan and federal officials had identified two leaks spewing methane gas which is linked to climate change. BP said infrared cameras on a flight over the site appeared to confirm that the oil released with the gas was contained on the gravel pad surrounding the well head and the tundra had suffered no damage.

By Sunday afternoon, one of the leaks had been plugged with a surface safety valve, but the second leak, although reduced, continued to release gas, according to federal and state officials. Specialists deployed by Boots and Coots, a well control company, were arriving in the area yesterday to help seal the well.

''Crews are on the scene and are developing plans to bring the well under control,'' said Brett Clanton, a BP spokesman, ''and safety will remain our top priority as we move through this process.''

The volume of the leak had not been determined and the cause of the release was unknown, according to a statement from the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

The leak comes as the remote North Slope, once home to the US' biggest oilfields, sees a revival with companies working to boost output from ageing wells and seeking access to new supplies. North Slope production was up to 565,000 barrels a day in March, its highest level since December 2013.

According to commentators, it was another sign, in addition to multibillion-barrel discoveries in recent months,  that the area might be reversing decades of declining volumes and investment.