Sale of BP’s Alaska assets approved

Please note that this is corrected pie chart. A previous version showed ExxonMobil’s ownership at approximately 30% and ConocoPhillips at 21%.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska has issued a final approval in the sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp Energy Company and their affiliate, Harvest Alaska.

This purchase includes the transfer of the largest percentage of ownership of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System to Hilcorp Energy and their affiliate, Harvest Alaska.

The sale has been controversial. In March of 2020, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska issued an order approving the company’s request to keep their financial documents confidential. That order generated extensive public comments from Alaskans, including the Council.

One of the commissioners, Stephen McAlpine, dissented in that March order. He noted that he believed “airing these documents publicly and subjecting the entire transaction to intense debate far outweighs the petitioners’ interest in keeping them confidential.”

Sale moving forward

In December, the commission issued an order allowing the sale to go forward, however certain conditions must be met. Some of these conditions include:

  • BP is required to file a written declaration confirming they remain responsible for dismantling and removing equipment and restoring the land after the Trans Alaska Pipeline System is decommissioned. This commitment applies to the facilities as they exist at the time of the sale. Harvest would be responsible for dismantling any new facilities.
  • The order requires Hilcorp and Harvest to submit financial statements and a summary of their insurance coverage every year to regulatory agencies. BP is also required to file financial statements with the same agencies.
  • Additionally, the companies must submit a report to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources , or DNR, that details the expected cost to dismantle and restore these facilities. This report must be completed by December 31, 2021. Future updates to this report will be due to the commission every three years.

These future filings would remain confidential.

Concerns remain

The Council does not oppose the sale itself. However, concerns remain. Because the financial documents are not available for review, the Council has been unable to verify the new owners’ ability to maintain the system and potentially respond to an oil spill. The manner in which this transaction was approved, including the ruling to keep information confidential, sets a dangerous precedent for future TAPS owner transactions.

More details

Find information on the commitment to restore the land, the tariff that is intended to pay for the restoration, and a summary of the government agencies responsible for overseeing the transaction in a previous edition of The Observer: Sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp under scrutiny (April 2020)

The RCA’s order approving the sale is available on their website at: RCA Order 17 

Sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp under scrutiny

Additional information needed to address concerns

Storage Tanks at Valdez Marine TerminalThe sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp Energy Company and affiliates is still pending approval by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, or RCA, and other state agencies.

The RCA, within Alaska’s Department of Commerce, regulates utilities and pipeline carriers in the State of Alaska. Other State of Alaska agencies are advising the RCA on aspects of the transaction and have their own statutory authority to approve or deny the transaction.

Hilcorp’s request for confidential financial documents is questioned

Hilcorp filed financial information in late 2019 and requested that the RCA keep those documents and the sales agreement confidential. They argued that releasing these documents to the public would cause “competitive harm.”

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Transparency is the foundation of public trust: RCA should require release of Hilcorp financial information

By Donna Schantz
Executive Director

Public trust in our oil spill prevention and response system took many years to rebuild after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. It took a commitment to transparency, listening and engaging stakeholders in developing and maintaining the system of safeguards we have today for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company initiated many of the spill prevention and response improvements by working with regulators and the public, a testament to their ongoing commitment to the people, environment and safety.

Photo of Donna Schantz
Donna Schantz

This system is now widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Strong State of Alaska statutes and regulations have been a major driver of this robust system. The lack of significant spills in Prince William Sound over the last 30 years indicates the effectiveness of industry meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements.

In enacting the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Congress determined that only when local citizens are involved in oil transport will the trust develop that is necessary to change the system from confrontation to consensus, and so the Act called for creation of citizen councils.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council was created to provide a voice for citizens, those with the most to lose in the event of a large spill. Our council is a unique partner for industry and regulators, giving them a platform to provide information, answer questions, listen to stakeholders and cultivate the long-term relationships that are necessary to establish public trust. Involving local citizens in the process of independently verifying the state of readiness to prevent and respond to oil spills helps build trust.

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Shares of pipeline and terminal expected to change hands this year

Lack of public information about BP to Hilcorp sale leads to concerns

Late last year, Hilcorp Energy Company announced that they intend to purchase all of BP’s Alaska-related assets. These assets include approximately 49% interest of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Assuming the deal goes through, Hilcorp will take over BP’s facilities on Alaska’s North Slope and their affiliate Harvest Alaska LLC will take over BP’s share of the pipeline and terminal. Harvest’s specialty is “midstream” operations, which means moving oil from the production site to a destination such as a refinery or shipping terminal.

Harvest representatives have stated that their company has grown mostly through acquiring existing facilities and operating them through the end of the facility’s life. They have said that their experience with issues that occur in aging facilities, such as corrosion, would be a benefit for the pipeline and terminal, which is now over 40 years old.

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