Report identifies concerns with tanker escort tugs being built for service in Prince William Sound

The council has identified some areas of concern with the design of the new escort and general purpose tugs under construction by Edison Chouest Offshore for use in Prince William Sound. These concerns and recommendations result from a council-commissioned analysis of the tugs by Robert Allan Ltd., a naval architecture and marine engineering company. Edison Chouest Offshore is taking over the marine services contract for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in the summer of 2018. Crowley Maritime has held the contract since the creation of Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The services provided under this contract include escort tugs, general purpose tugs, oil recovery storage barges, and associated personnel, all of which are key oil spill prevention and response assets for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers operating in Prince William Sound. Robert Allan Ltd. was contracted by the council to review and evaluate drawings and other vessel design materials provided by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. This review includes information that was provided to the council as of December 14, 2016. … Continue reading

Falling oil prices shouldn’t mean reduced environmental protections

From Executive Director Mark Swanson: Oil prices have been falling for a long while now. Stock markets and energy sectors are volatile. This is good news or bad news depending on whether you are in the business of buying or selling crude oil, heating a home with expensive heating oil, or funding a government from revenue derived from the oil industry. Our dependence on oil revenues and oil products, along with our vulnerability to oil spills and fossil fuel-related climate changes, place us on an increasingly unpredictable roller coaster. You may have a slightly different ride depending where in the train of cars you sit, but make no mistake, we are all on the same track, and live in the same environment. … Continue reading

Robotic inspection tool redefines Trans-Alaska Pipeline innovation

From Alyeska: This is a tale of perfect timing and imperfect piping, insistent independence and trusted teamwork, hundreds of hurdles and millions in savings, a simple Russian robot and a seismic company culture shift. This is the story of the Robotic Inline Inspection Tool Team, which received Alyeska’s 2015 Atigun Award for Innovation. The seven team winners, and the dozens of individuals, teams and organizations that supported the effort, were all integral in a game-changing three-year journey that led to the world’s first crawler pig integrity inspection of a liquid pipeline: the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, known as TAPS. In the summer of 2014, a 200-pound Russian-owned robotic crawler pig inspected around 850 feet of 36 inch buried TAPS piping at Pump Station 3, providing a level of clarity on its system integrity that was previously inaccessible. The success of that inspection resulted in reduced risk and significant cost savings for Alyeska and TAPS. It also inspired similar inspections – as well as similar cost savings and risk reduction – in 2015 and the years ahead. “There were so many people and teams involved; we all did our jobs, and we did our jobs well,” said Bhaskar Neogi, Alyeska Senior Director of Risk and Compliance. “But this was also about luck, perseverance, stubbornness not to give up, and a willingness not to worry about if we failed.” … Continue reading

State spill prevention and response division prevails in fight for funding

By Steve Rothchild Administrative Deputy Director The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s division of Spill Prevention and Response, often referred to by the acronym “SPAR,” has been facing a significant funding shortfall for some time due to declining oil production. The division works to prevent, prepare and respond to spills of oil and hazardous substances as well as oversee the cleanup of contaminated sites. Their work includes facility inspections, contingency plan review and approval, drills and exercises and site monitoring. In the 1980s, the State legislature instituted a per barrel surcharge on crude oil to provide funding for the division. Unfortunately, when originally enacted, there was no inflation protection in the bill and production has declined. Running out of money This year, without inflation protection or another funding source, the crude oil surcharge became inadequate to support SPAR’s work, necessitating staff reductions and other cost savings. Starting in early 2014, department personnel provided projections to both the House and Senate showing the decrease of funds due to lower oil production. SPAR has been relying on large oil spill settlements and penalties to address the shortfall for several years but those are now spent. This year, SPAR reduced expenses by combining the planning and prevention program with the prevention and response program, reducing personnel, and more actively pursued cost reimbursement, however the shortfall was projected to be $7 million annually. Without a fix to funding, essential services would cease and SPAR would have to reduce personnel by approximately 40 percent. … Continue reading