Citizens Advisory Council Advocates for Strengthened Oil Spill Prevention Measures at Drift River Oil Terminal
The Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council (Cook Inlet RCAC) is recommending that the Drift River Oil Terminal (DROT) and its associated tankers be replaced with a subsea crude oil pipeline within five years. Hilcorp Alaska, which purchased the terminal and other oil and gas assets in the region in 2012 and is expanding exploration and production, is proposing to reopen the terminal pending approval from the State.
The Drift River facility was shut in after the March 2009 eruption of Mt. Redoubt, and the subsequent flooding in the river valley which threatened, but did not compromise, the facility or breach its protective measures. In several meetings with the Council, Hilcorp presented detailed plans to bolster those measures in advance of any reopening. Following a presentation in June 2012, the Council Board of Directors developed a position paper on these plans. The position paper and recommendations are the result of Cook Inlet RCAC's continued focus and involvement on reducing the risks of an oil spill at the terminal.
The council adopted its position because of the terminal’s proximity to an active volcano, Mt. Redoubt, and the Drift River flood plain. “We believe that the terminal represents increased risk to Cook Inlet’s ecosystem and the region’s economic interests,” said Cook Inlet RCAC’s Executive Director Mike Munger.
The current by-pass system at DROT stores oil at other oil facilities and pumps it to the DROT when tankers are scheduled to transport the crude oil to Tesoro’s refinery on the east side of Cook Inlet. This system significantly increases tanker traffic and retention time at the DROT during tanker loading, creating a greater potential for accidents, especially during the harsh winter conditions in Cook Inlet.
“The bypass system is not a viable long term operational solution. It is the Council’s position that a properly engineered subsea pipeline presents a much lower risk than a marine facility and associated tanker traffic, and represents the best long-term option for the Inlet’s future oil transportation from west side production operations to the east side refinery,” Munger said.
The Cook Inlet RCAC has also taken the position that limited and temporary use of the Drift River Oil Terminal is preferable to the current interim system, under the conditions that Hilcorp Alaska:
- Continues efforts to retrofit the terminal with increased flood control protection systems, and reduce its use of the large crude oil storage tanks at the facility until the subsea crude oil transmission pipeline can be engineered and built to replace the need for the marine terminal facilities and tankers for transport;
- Incorporates additional safety measures similar to those that were put in place during the 1989-1990 and 2009 Mt. Redoubt eruptions, including sharing detailed plans for facility shut-in and removal of stored product in the event of future seismic or volcanic events;
- Takes whatever steps are necessary to share information with the public on volumes of crude oil stored at the facility, particularly should an incident occur; and
- Builds the pipeline no later than five (5) years after the terminal’s reopening.
Speaking on behalf of the Cook Inlet RCAC, Munger said, "We believe this position is responsible and reduces potential environmental risks from increased tanker traffic in Cook Inlet, while still protecting the economic interests of the Cook Inlet region."
Cook Inlet RCAC is the Federally-mandated citizens’ organization, formed under the Federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90). Its mission is to represent citizens of Cook Inlet in promoting environmentally safe marine transportation and oil facility operations in Cook Inlet. In pursuing this mandate, the Council strives to help protect the environment, fisheries, economic vitality, and recreational interests of Cook Inlet. We engage in environmental research and monitoring, and oil spill prevention and contingency planning.
“The mission of the Council is to represent the citizens of Cook Inlet in promoting environmentally safe marine transportation and oil facility operations in Cook Inlet.”
Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council * 8195 Kenai Spur Hwy Kenai, AK 99611-8033
Phone: (907) 283-7222 * Fax (907) 283-6102