Environmental

Feds Order Hilcorp To Fix Ruptured Alaskan Pipeline or Shut it Down

Oil Rig daylight 280x210 Feds Order Hilcorp To Fix Ruptured Alaskan Pipeline or Shut it DownFederal regulators gave Hilcorp Energy an ultimatum March 3: Either repair its leaking methane in Cook Inlet, , by May 1 or shut the line down completely.

Digital Journal reports that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Transportation, issued the directive to and gas driller Hilcorp after discovering that the broken pipeline continues to release about 300,000 cubic feet of gas into Cook Inlet, southwest of Anchorage, daily.

The leak was first discovered Feb. 7 even though company data indicated its presence as early as December 2016. Federal regulators told Hilcorp that the leak threatens public safety and poses environmental hazards.

According to Digital Journal, the government’s directive cites two previous leaks in the pipeline that occurred in the summer of 2014. Those leaks, it was determined, were caused by rocks that struck the line in sections that weren’t in continual contact with the sea floor, causing abrasion and eventual deterioration. The leaks were 42 yards apart and less than a mile from the current leak.

Hilcorp’s personnel recorded an increased flow rate at the affected section of pipeline in January. The findings prompted the company to surveil the line by helicopter on Feb. 7, the day the leak was discovered. Further analysis of Hilcorp data found the leak had been present since late December.

Alarmingly, Hilcorp’s damaged “A Pipeline” has a companion “B Pipeline” used for moving oil. The B Pipeline is identical to the A Pipeline in many ways and is subject to the same environmental and geographical stresses.

Safety regulators and environmentalists warn that oil spills in cold-water environments could take decades to remediate. Much of the shore and ocean floor in Prince William Sound southeast of Anchorage remains covered in oil released from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

Amplifying the risk of a catastrophic spill in Cook Inlet is Hilcorp’s poor oversight of its pipelines. The PHMSA’s directive asserted that Hilcorp’s current test methods, “do not provide sufficient information to determine whether there are external loads on the pipe, eroded pipe, rock impingements, metal loss, dents, gouges, dielectric coating deterioration, and/or missing 1-inch thick concrete weight coating.”

The agency gave Hilcorp 30 days to respond. After that period, PHMSA will issue a final safety order and Hilcorp will have two weeks to submit an update on the leak and plan for its repair. If the pipeline must be shut down, the energy company must submit a plan for safety terminating its gas delivery system.

Source: Digital Journal