Company awaiting regulator's go-ahead to restart trans-Alaska pipeline system after spill
JUNEAU, Alaska – JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline system is awaiting the go-ahead from federal regulators to restart the flow of oil through the 800-mile line after a spill this week.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. remains hopeful that the OK will come before its targeted startup of noon Friday.
The line has been shut down since Tuesday. That's when Alyeska said a power failure during a planned shutdown caused up to several thousand barrels of oil to spill into a partially filled storage tank. The tank, in turn, overflowed into a containment yard.
Spokeswoman Michelle Egan says the company is ready to startup but received an order seeking documentation and other details about its plans from federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. She says the company is working with the agency to answer its questions.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline system says oil should once again flow through the 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) line sometime Friday.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. had hoped that the line — shut down since a spill earlier in the week — could be restarted by Thursday night, but officials said the process of coming back online has taken longer than expected.
Spokeswoman Michelle Egan said oil should resume flowing Friday.
"We're still optimistic about meeting that noon window for tomorrow, and I mean that sincerely," she said Thursday night. "I think it's very doable."
The line has been shut down since Tuesday, when Alyeska said a power failure during a planned shutdown resulted in up to several thousand barrels of oil spilling into a partially filled storage tank. The tank, in turn, overflowed into a containment yard lined with an impermeable barrier.
Alyeska has ordered production levels drastically cut to 8 percent of normal output to keep from filling storage facilities before the line could be brought back up safely.
Egan said officials hoped to have a better estimate on the spill size soon. She said the lack of a more precise estimate can be blamed on an "intense focus" to restart the line.
The pipeline carries oil from Alaska's North Slope to Valdez, where tankers pick it up and deliver it to refineries. So far, Egan said there have been no changes to the tanker schedule or to loads that tankers are carrying.
Last month, the pipeline moved 645,113 barrels of oil per day, on average. Average crude oil production in the U.S. is about 5.5 million barrels a day.
Alyeska reported Thursday that power had been restored to a pump station, crews were draining oil from a storage tank that overflowed, and cleanup and oil recovery was under way.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation investigating the cause of the spill and whether there were plans and procedures in place — and followed — throughout the incident, Betty Schorr, manager of the agency's Industry Preparedness Program.
If there's a large spill and no obvious cause, other than an apparent power outage, then officials want to investigate, Schorr said. That process can take months, or longer.