British Petroleum is the senior partner in a consortium known as the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. It oversees the Alaska oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Tuesday a leak developed on a portion of the line that BP had kept from being inspected for years and years:
A power failure at a pump station along the trans-Alaska pipeline caused up to several thousand barrels of crude to spill into a containment area Tuesday morning. The station, which has failed before during maintenance operations, is located near Delta Junction, about a hundred miles south of Fairbanks.
The trans-Alaska pipeline is operated by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., a consortium of five oil companies. BP, which is currently dealing with a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, owns a majority interest of 47 percent.
Alyeska was planning a shutdown of the pipeline Tuesday to perform routine maintenance when the spill happened, said Tom DeRuyter, an on-scene coordinator for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. At Pump Station 9, oil began flowing from the pipeline back into tanks after a backup battery failed. With the power out, no one could tell how much oil was in the tank, he said. When the tank overflowed, oil spilled into a containment area surrounding the pump station.
Alyeska, which has mobilized responders from Delta Junction and Fairbanks, said in a statement that the valve is closed and the source of the spill oil is controlled. A DEC report said future plans include removing the spilled oil from a secondary containment, figuring out exactly what caused the spill, and getting oil flowing through the pipeline again.
Alyeska is "accepting full responsibility and is moving forward with the response effort," DeRuyter said.
As of 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline, which carries 15 percent of U.S. domestic oil production, remained shut down. Officials were unsure when oil would start flowing again.
In Alaska, the dangers of this long pipeline leaking along the course of the Copper River, home of the most highly regarded Sockeye and King (Chinook) salmon fishery in the world, have long been recognized by the same people so grievously hurt by the Exxon Valdez catastrophe of 1989 – the Cordova fishing fleet.