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Panel to review Cook Inlet infrastructure

Alaska Department of Natural Resources


A panel of experts has been namedto take a look at the pipeline infrastructure of Cook Inlet and make recommendations that will help ensure continued safe operation.

Tim Robertson will help facilitate the panel’s work. He’s a co-owner of Nuka, an environmental consulting firm, based in Seldovia. He says similar groups have been brought together to look at operations on the North Slope.

“An expert panel got together, they read the information that we provided them from our research. They had a chance to actually engage with and talk to the operators and talk with the public about what the public’s concerns might be and likewise, and opportunity to engage with regulators. (Then) the experts sort of go away and do their best to come up with consensus recommendations that are aimed at everyone who is concerned about the issue, so there will probably be some recommendations that are specific to operators, other recommendations would be specific to regulators and maybe other recommendations are just best practices.”

Cook Inlet’s infrastructure in general is getting old and some pipelines and platforms have been in use since development first began more than 50 years ago.

Recent issues with gas leaks and deliveries give some extra incentive to examine the system. Four four months at the beginning of 2017, a pipeline owned by Hilcorp leaked methane into the water at a rate of 200,000 cubic feet per day. And this winter, gas deliveries from the Julius R. platform stopped when hydrates formed in the pipeline. Robertson says one case isn’t indicative of the overall condition of the equipment in the water.

“It gets pointed out to me all the time that we had pipelines that failed within a year or two of when they were installed. And we have pipelines in Cook Inlet that have been producing for 50 years and have never had a problem, and inspections show there’s no reason to believe they will have a problem any time soon. It’s very circumstantial, based on the individual pipeline, the product that it’s carrying and what it’s subjected to in terms of external forces.”

The five-member panel brings expertise from backgrounds in engineering, risk analysis and corrosion control. The group is currently reviewing background information about Cook Inlet’s oil and gas operations and will begin meeting in May. Robertson says a final report, including recommendations, will be done this fall.


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