New buoys now streaming weather conditions from Port Valdez

Photo of new buoy deployed in 2019.

Two new buoys are now in place and broadcasting weather conditions in the vicinity of the Valdez Marine Terminal.

Photo of new buoy deployed in 2019.

The buoys collect weather data such as temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and barometric pressure, as well as oceanographic information like surface current direction and speed, wave heights, and water temperature. This data will help improve understanding of the meteorological and physical oceanographic environment in Port Valdez.

Valdez Marine Terminal – current weather conditions

Duck Flats/Valdez Harbor – current weather conditions

Weather conditions throughout Prince William Sound

Terminal buoy result of cooperative partnership

The buoy closest to the terminal (pictured above) is the result of a partnership between the Council, the Prince William Sound Science Center, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the City of Valdez, and Valdez Fisheries Development Association.

“Partnerships like these result in collaborative science, which is the best base for providing answers to challenging questions related to planning an effective oil spill response,” said Donna Schantz, Executive Director for the Council. “The Council has long advocated for this kind of data collection at the terminal and believe the information generated will contribute to best practices for prevention and response.”

The partnership is a result of an agreement reached between the Council, the City of Valdez, Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, Valdez Fisheries Development Association, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regarding protections in the Valdez Marine Terminal contingency plan for two nearby areas that are particularly sensitive to spilled oil, the Solomon Gulch fish hatchery and a salt marsh known as the Valdez Duck Flats.

In 1994, the tanker Eastern Lion spilled 8,400 gallons of North Slope crude oil into Port Valdez. Oil reached the Duck Flats and hatchery before protective boom was in place.

After that spill, changes were made to the Valdez Marine Terminal contingency plan to ensure that protections were deployed quickly. A rapid-decision tool, called a “matrix,” was created to help responders assess when to deploy protective boom to the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and Valdez Duck Flats during the critical early hours of a response. In 2017, the matrix was modified, and the Council, the City of Valdez, Valdez Fisheries Development Association, and Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation appealed that decision.

Earlier this year, the parties agreed to stay the appeal in lieu of a collaborative workgroup process. The workgroup’s goal is to reach consensus on how to ensure the protection of the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and Valdez Duck Flats. The buoys will provide scientific data to help the workgroup better understand how spilled oil will move in Port Valdez. This knowledge will help determine the timing for deploying protective boom.

Second buoy monitors Valdez Duck Flats

A second buoy has been deployed near the Valdez Duck Flats to monitor conditions in that location. The second buoy has been made possible by partnerships with Prince William Sound Science Center, the City of Valdez, and Valdez Fisheries Development Association.

Map

The map shows the locations of the two sensitive areas of concern, as well as the location of the new buoys. The hatchery is a little over two miles from the terminal, and the flats are approximately four miles.

North Slope crude oil spills into Port Valdez

Oil collected inside boom during spill. Photo by Jeremy Robida.
Oil collected inside boom during spill. Photo by Jeremy Robida.

On September 21, approximately 100 gallons of North Slope Crude oil was spilled into Port Valdez. The spill occurred during a planned annual leak-test of the pipes that load oil onto tankers out at the end of loading Berth 5 at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

To conduct the annual test, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company uses the berth’s fire system to pump seawater into the crude piping to a pressure of 190 PSI, or pounds per square inch. That pressure is held for a prescribed amount of time to allow inspectors to visually check the pipes for leaks. However, that day Alyeska was unable to achieve the necessary 190 PSI test pressure and an apparent operational error led to a mixture of crude oil and seawater being spilled into Port Valdez. Alyeska is conducting a thorough investigation of the spill.

Read moreNorth Slope crude oil spills into Port Valdez

Corrosion found in piping at terminal; Alyeska plans fix

By AUSTIN LOVE
Council Project Manager

A temporary black carbon steel clamp was installed to prevent an oil leak from the localized corroded area. Photo courtesy of Alyeska.
A temporary black carbon steel clamp was installed to prevent an oil leak from the localized corroded area.

In 2012, Alyeska identified a 6 inch wide area of external corrosion on crude oil piping near the end of one of their oil-loading berths, known as Berth 5, at the Valdez Marine Terminal. Corrosion in the 48 inch diameter pipe is of particular concern, as it is located over water.

Read moreCorrosion found in piping at terminal; Alyeska plans fix

Council weighs in on terminal contingency plan changes

By LINDA SWISS
Council Project Manager

Valdez Marine Terminal
Oil storage tanks have a “secondary containment” system surrounding them that would help keep oil out of the environment if a spill from the tanks should occur. The containment system has a liner that would prevent oil from seeping through to the ground. The council recommends routine inspections to make sure the liner remains intact.

The oil spill contingency plan for the Valdez Marine Terminal is undergoing an update, and the council recently had an opportunity to comment on the changes.

The plan, known officially as the Valdez Marine Terminal Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan, contains detailed information about how an oil spill at the terminal can be contained and cleaned up, and ways to prevent an oil spill in the first place.

By law, these plans are required to be reviewed and updated every five years, and these changes are a part of that regular cycle.

Read moreCouncil weighs in on terminal contingency plan changes