Oil spills during pipeline restart

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2001

ANCHORAGE As much as 1,200 gallons of oil may have spilled during a routine restart of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, according to regulators who oversee the 800-mile line.

The spills stem from problems in how workers executed work and do not appear to be due to equipment failures, said Jerry Brossia, with the joint state-federal Joint Pipeline Office. "This is the biggest procedural bust at Alyeska in a long time," he said. "They just got sloppy."

The line from the North Slope to Valdez carries about 1 million barrels of oil a day. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. shuts down the line every September to perform other maintenance. After a 21-hour shutdown, Alyeska reopened the pipeline at 4 a.m. Sunday. Oil spilled at three pump stations on the northern fringe of the Brooks Range.

The oil didn't reach land near the pipeline, but regulators said the missteps are among the most serious problems along the pipeline in recent years.

Richard Fineberg, a Fairbanks environmental consultant, said the spills are another in a series of problems during pipeline restarts. "Three different problems at three different pump stations at once is mind-boggling," Fineberg said.

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