WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) BP Plc shut down a quarter of its 400,000 barrels-per-day Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska after discovering a produced water spill on Monday, a company spokesman said.
BP workers shut down the 100,000 bpd Gathering Center 2 after finding produced water leaking from a 12-inch pipeline at the gathering center, said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell.
Fewer than 20 barrels of produced water, which is separated from crude oil at the gathering center and then reinjected in the field, were spilled, he said.
''We expect the facility to be down a few days while repairs are made,'' said Chappell.
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, who heads the investigations arm of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the spill was a further sign that BP cost cutting was to blame for the poor state of infrastructure at Prudhoe Bay.
Stupak's subcommittee is probing a March 2006 oil spill at Prudhoe Bay, the biggest U.S. oil field. Internal corrosion in a pipeline that had been poorly maintained by BP was blamed for the spill, which dumped at least 200,000 gallons of crude oil onto the tundra.
A criminal investigation into the spill has been under way since last year. No charges have been laid.
Stupak has said that budget cuts at the London-based energy giant were to blame for past incidents, and said he will continue to investigate.
''While I have not seen all the facts on this most recent leak, it appears to be yet further evidence that BP's cost-cutting culture has put our nation's economy at risk,'' he said.
At a hearing last week, BP America Chief Executive Bob Malone conceded that ''there were extreme budget pressures at Prudhoe Bay,'' which affected maintenance work.
BP operates Prudhoe Bay on behalf of its partners ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil Corp.
REUTERS DKS GC2012