Cleanup continues as Alaska oil pipeline returns to full operation

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Oct. 8 -- The Trans-Alaska pipeline was restored to full operations Sunday morning following permanent repair of a shooting puncture Saturday evening.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said North Slope producers were released to full production at 7 a.m. Sunday. They had been held to 5% of normal.

The 210,000-b/d Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. and 15,000-b/d Petro Star Inc. refineries in North Pole were returned to normal supply at 9 a.m. Sunday. The pipeline shutdown did not affect loading operations at the Valdez Marine terminal.

The pipeline was shut down Thursday afternoon when oil was discovered on the ground near milepost 400, about 15 miles north of Pump Station No. 7. Alyeska sent response crews, heavy machinery, and a special land spill strike team to the scene to clean up the spill.

Alaska police charged Daniel Lewis, 37, of nearby Livengood, with criminal mischief. State hunting regulations prohibit the use of firearms within 5 miles of the line.

Pressure inside the pipeline was 525 psi at the time of the incident. Oil sprayed about 75 ft from the pipeline. An estimated 6,800 bbl was spilled; 2,108 bbl had been recovered as of early Sunday.

Environmental cleanup efforts were continuing. Plans were being drafted for long-term environmental cleanup, restoration, and monitoring.

Alyeska discovered the rupture in a routine helicopter overflight.

The company placed a hydraulic clamp on the rupture to stop the oil spray. A plug was welded onto the pipeline to permanently repair the damage. Alyeska said this procedure has been used in different repair operations several times on the pipeline.

Alyeska had increased security along the pipeline since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Individuals have vandalized the line several times, most recently in 1999.

Gov. Tony Knowles called the incident "a senseless act of vandalism."

He said, "I believe additional security measures along the pipeline are necessary, and we will be working with Alyeska and state and federal agencies to make those improvements."

Knowles said following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the state began examining energy security proposals, including restricted access to the pipeline -- such as locking all gates to access roads -- and increased patrols along the pipeline route.

Also, the state-federal Joint Pipeline Office has prepared a white paper on additional security, which is under review.

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