Leaks in abandoned pipeline, crude oil sheens hamper pipeline cleanup

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE - An abandoned Cook Inlet pipeline sprung several leaks while it was being pressurized by cleanup crews.

The leaks Tuesday caused sheens as large as 200 yards and five miles long. The mishap changed plans to scour residual crude oil from the 14-mile pipeline.

Cleanup crews spent the morning swabbing the inlet's surface with plastic pompoms, according to Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

Some oil later evaporated or dissipated, according to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. The company is trying to clean the abandoned pipeline to stop it from leaking.

Nobody knows how much oil lingers in the old line, so the oil company had hoped to push a train of nontoxic gel, called a pig, through the line to sponge it all up.

But for that to work, the line had to withstand about 2,000 pounds per square inch of air pressure. BP forced air into the pipeline shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday. It took 15 minutes for oil to bubble to the surface about two miles from shore, said BP spokesman Paul Laird.

The company has approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Coast Guard to try something different, Laird told the Anchorage Daily News.

Starting next week, BP will tap into high points in the pipeline, he said. A pair of vacuum trucks aboard a landing craft will suck oil out of the high spots until they are getting nothing but water.



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