CIRCAC Says Pipeline Construction Could Begin Next Year

     It’s been more than four years since an eruption at Mt. Redoubt and questions still linger about the potential hazards of storing oil there. Both the industry and environmental groups have come out in support of construction of a sub-sea pipeline to replace the need for storage tanks at the Drift River terminal at Redoubt’s base, including Cook Inlet Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council.

     Speaking at Tuesday’s Kenai Chamber of Commerce meeting, CIRCAC’s Director of Public Outreach, Lynda Giguere repeated the group’s stand on the potential construction of a pipeline under Cook Inlet.

     “Last year, we went on record in support of a subsea pipeline as a preferred way to transport oil across Cook Inlet, from west side production facilities to east side refineries. We know there is significant risk in storing large volumes of oil there. And although we are extremely supportive of Hilcorp’s efforts at Drift River Terminal, we believe a pipeline is just safer,” Giguere said.

     Last December, the first steps of building that pipeline were taken when Cook Inlet Energy applied for a right-of-way lease from the Department of Natural Resources, clearing a path for a proposed 29-mile pipeline that would run from Cook Inlet Energy’s Kustatan production facility on West Foreland Point to the Tesoro refinery in Nikiski.

     “There have been a lot of discussions with companies who are talking about taking that project on, and our most recent information is that Tesoro is going to move forward with this. It doesn’t come without risk, but we believe (a pipeline) is less (risky) than the current mode of transportation…Our understanding is that construction may begin as soon as next year,” she said.

     That should be good news for people worried about the dangers of storing oil at the base of an active volcano.

     Part of the trouble in 2009 was that crews were moved from the site as Mt. Redoubt began to rumble, so if the berms and other protective measures failed, there wasn’t anyone nearby to stay ahead of possible spills. Those berms have since been upgraded by Hilcorp, which operates the Drift River Terminal, but the tanks remain, and more of them could come online soon. Cook Inlet Pipeline Company submitted an application earlier this month to the Department of Environmental Conservation to add more storage capacity at the tank farm.

     Currently, there is a single 270,000 barrel tank in use, and the company plans to put a second back into service. There are four tanks at the site in total, and DEC notes a potential risk of oil spills entering lands and waters as a result of the operation.

     Calls to Tesoro to find out more about its plans for a sub-sea pipeline were not immediately returned.