Near Miss For a Second Oil Disaster in Alaska

While the media focused on coverage of the Gulf Coast oil disaster, few were aware that Alaska could have had another oil travesty on their hands.

It’s not getting a whole lot of press coverage, and with what’s happening in the Northern Gulf off the shore of Louisiana, I guess we can’t be surprised. Lack of coverage aside, what we can do is point fingers…again. At the end of May, the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline began leaking during a temporary power outage. Fortunately, the oil overflowed into a containment area only, without an environmental impact, but this definitely brings recognition to the need for contingency plans with oil.

In Alaska, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is owned by a number of the world’s oil suppliers, including BP. It was one of the pump stations within the network that sprung a leak in May when the backup diesel power generator failed during routine fire maintenance. In these circumstances, to relieve pressure to the pipeline, there’s a valve that automatically opens. A release tank is designed to collect the oil spilled, but this overflowed spilling what’s estimated at thousands of barrels of oil into a containment area. The oil pipeline was shut down for days while cleanup crews came in to clean up the spill.

Not that the oil industry or BP deserve any kudos for keeping with their responsibility to minimize environmental impact, but it was a contingency plan that kept this spill from causing environmental devastation. Perhaps the fact that there is positive to be seen in this circumstance is what kept it out of the media. Instead of looking at the positive, let’s look at it this way; it’s possible to do right, so the fact that they cut corners in the Gulf in Louisiana only makes it even more wrong.

Image: Letdown102 on Flickr with  Creative Commons License

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top