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Volcano forces Chevron to suspend Inlet oil production

Kyle Hopkins
Mount Redoubt continues to blow steam and ash as seen from near Homer on April 11, 2009.
Steam and ash streams out of Mount Redoubt volcano on Saturday April 4, 2009. Photos made by Iliamna Air Taxi pilot Nick Oppegard around 2:30 pm on Saturday on his way from Anchorage to Iliamna on a s scheduled flight at 14,000 feet. Iliamna Volcano is in the background, just right of Redoubt.
Redoubt volcano in continuous eruption on March 31, 2009. Plume height is no more than 15,000 feet above sea level. The small amount of ash in the plume is creating a haze layer down wind of the volcano and dustings of fine ash are falling out of the plume. View is from the east.
Ash collects on a windshield following an eruption of Mount Redoubt volcano Saturday March 28, 2009 in west Anchorage.
Lightning from Redoubt's 11:20 pm, March 27, eruption.
USGS geologist, Kristi Wallace, digging a snow pit to sample ash fall deposits from Redoubt volcano. View is to the east with Drift River Valley in the background. on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
Mount Redoubt remains active, as seen from near Homer on April 11, 2009.
Steam and ash streams out of Mount Redoubt volcano on Sturday April 4, 2009. Photos made by Iliamna Air Taxi pilot Nick Oppegard around 2:30 pm on Saturday on his way from Anchorage to Iliamna on a s scheduled flight at 14,000 feet.
Redoubt volcano continues to erupt as seen from Lake Clark Pass on March 31, 2009.
Redoubt Volcano in eruption during an observation and gas data collection flight on March 30, 2009. Continuous emission of volcanic gas, water vapor, and ash is producing a plume rising to about 15,000 feet above sea level. The haze at left below the drifting cloud is a region of active ash fall. AVO scientists observed ash falling up to 25 miles downwind.
The plume from Redoubt's 3:29 pm, March 28, 2009 eruption, rose above the volcano and was photographed from Soldotna.
USGS geologist, Kristi Wallace, digging a snow pit to sample ash fall deposits from Redoubt volcano. View is to the east with Drift River Valley in the background. on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
Anaglyph of Redoubt, on April 4, 2009. For 3-D viewing, please use red-blue glasses, with left eye red.
An eruption plume rises above Mount Redoubt volcano, 50 miles across Cook Inlet from Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, April 4, 2009. The 10,197-foot mountain had another explosive eruption at 6 a.m. and has continued to emit ash and steam throughout the day, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Panorama of Redoubt Volcano plume trailing off to the northeast on March 31, 2009. The plume contains fine ash which is creating a haze layer downwind of the volcano. Image courtesy of Alaska Volcano Observatory.
A skier makes a trail through ash from Redoubt Volcano as he makes his way off of the U.S. Alpine Championships course at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, 40 miles south of Anchorage, Saturday, March 28, 2009. The volcano, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, first erupted Sunday night with the most resent eruption Saturday afternoon.
Redoubt's plume from the volcano's 1:40 pm, March 28, 2009 eruption was photographed near Homer.
AVO geologist, Janet Schaefer collecting proximal tephra-fall (volcanic ash) deposits from the current eruption with Redoubt volcano as a backdrop on Monday, April 21, 2009.
Although Mount Redoubt has been on the quiet side for a few days, it continues to emit steam and ash in a cloud that goes up to 20,000 feet at times. Sunset at the mouth of the Kasilof River on April 7, 2009 affords a good view of the volcano.
One of Redoubt's webcams shows the volcano steaming at just after 5pm Saturday April 4, 2009. The volcano had an explosive eruption Saturday morning just before 6:00.
Thermal infrared image taken on Tuesday, March 31, 2009, showing the likely base of a new lava dome in the crater of Redoubt Volcano. While the dome is completely obscured by ash and steam in the visible photographs, the heat of the new lava can often be detected by the thermal infrared camera. The image also shows a trail of hot block and ash confined to the canyon below the summit. Picture Date: March 31, 2009 13:44:07 AKDT Image Creator:
Cutbank along Rust Slough, west of Drift River on March 22, 2009. Lahar deposit overlies snow, fluvial deposits, and 1990 lahar runout deposits,
Scientists from Alaska Volcano Observatory flew the Redoubt Volcano area Thursday March 26, 2009 for observation gas collection.
Fieldwork northwest of Redoubt volcano. Kristi Wallace measuring and collecting ash samples from the current eruption on March 31, 2009.
On April 4, 2009, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite captured this image of the Drift River Valley where it connects with Cook Inlet. Lahars have stained the river valley a deep muddy brown. Water channels form branching patterns just west of the Cook Inlet shore, and the dark brown color of each water channel contrasts sharply with the nearby snow. The Drift River Oil Terminal resides in this network of channels, and part of the facility appears as an off-white rectangle in a landscape of meandering mudflows.
The hut webcam on Mount Redoubt shows a small plume at 3:21 PM Saturday April 4, 2009. The volcano erupted explosively around 6am Saturday.
Ash and steam cloud from Redoubt Volcano as seen from Cannery Road in Kenai on Tuesday evening, March 31, 2009.
Impact from the volcanic ash fallout in Nikiski, Alaska on Monday, March 30, 2009. Fine ash is resuspended as vehicles drive over the recently deposited ash fall deposit from Redoubt Volcano. Photographer:
Redoubt volcano, viewed from the North Fork, Anchor Point at 6:30 pm, Thursday, March 26, 2009.
A steam plume was visible from Mount Redoubt on Monday evening, April 20, 2009, as viewed from Skyline Drive in Eagle River. The Anchorage skyline is visible in the foreground with Iliamna Volcano on the left.
The tanker Seabulk Arctic at berth at the Christy Lee loading platform. Mt. Redoubt volcano is shown in the background on Sunday, April 5, 2009.
Erin McKittrick collects an ash sample for the Alaska Volcano Observatory Saturday April 4, 2009 near Seldovia. Redoubt erupted Saturday morning around 6 AM and threw an ash and gas cloud up to around 50,000 feet in the air. The ash cloud moved over Cook Inlet and the western Kenai Peninsula. A thick blanket of ash fell in Homer and Seldovia along with other Kenai Peninsula communities.
View east of Redoubt Volcano and recent eruption deposits on the upper flanks on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.
Redoubt volcano emitted a plume thought to contain little ash at 9:44 a.m. on March 30th, 2009.
Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey
Mount Redoubt bellows steam and ash, seen from across the Cook Inlet in Ninilchik, Thursday, March 29, 2009.
Redoubt steams at sunset, on April 20, 2009, as viewed from Soldotna, Alaska.
Mount Redoubt as seen from 16,000 feet on a scheduled Iliamna Air flight April 6, 2009. The plume was drifting northeast toward Anchorage between 20,000 and 25,000 feet at about 30 knots.
One of Redoubt's webcams shows a clearing mountain with a small plume. The image was made at 3:35 PM Saturday April 4, 2009. The camera is located with a seismic station, approximately 7.6 miles NE of Redoubt.
Redoubt Volcano and eruption plume on March 31, 2009. View is to the northeast of the summit area and south rim of the crater.
Vehicles parked near the Delaney Park Strip in downtown Anchorage have their hoods covered to help protect against volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
A view northeast over the piedmont lobe of the Drift Glacier and down the Drift River valley shows the effects of flooding caused by two eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano earlier in the day Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Annotated webcam image from April 20, 2009, showing approximate height of the waterfall, and a corresponding bar for how high the Empire State Building would look next to the waterfall. These measurements are approximate and are only intended as a sense of scale - it is not possible to accurately measure the height of the dome from these webcam images. The April 20, 2009, debris flow is visible just to the left of the yellow bars. AVO gives special thanks to Marc Linsey, for his help in the creation of this figure.
Redoubt volcano pumps out steam and ash in the sunset light Sunday evening, viewed from Anchorage. April 5, 2009
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
One of Redoubt's webcams shows a clearing mountain with a small plume. The image was made at 1:45 PM Saturday April 4, 2009. The camera is located with a seismic station, approximately 7.6 miles NE of Redoubt.
View west of the east flank of Redoubt Volcano and ash-covered terrain from recent eruptions on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.
Steam and ash rises from Mount Redoubt on Monday afternoon, March 30, 2009.
AVO Redoubt Hut Cam
Mount Redoubt volcano is viewed from the south over the ash-covered Crescent River Valley Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Mount Redoubt releases a plume of water vapor and gas, April 17, 2009 50 miles across Cook Inlet from Kenai, Alaska.
Photograph of Redoubt volcano taken during an observation and gas collection overflight on Sunday, April 5, 2009.
Ashfall from Redoubt's ~6 am explosive event, April 4, 2009, covered a vehicle near Homer, AK.
Image grab of Redoubt Volcano from the AVO's Redoubt Hut webcam at 8:53am on Wednesday, April 1, 2009.
Volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt rests on the hood of a pickup truck parked south of Wasilla on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
Image grab from Redoubt Hut webcam on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 9:11 am.
A waterfall is viewed at the 5500' level of Drift Canyon following two morning eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano Thursday March 26, 2009
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
This April 20, 2009 photo shows traffic moving along Glenn Highway in Anchorage, Alaska, as Mount Redoubt, bellows steam and gas on the horizon. The volcano, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage on the west side of Cook Inlet began erupting March 22, 2009. According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory the volcano continues to erupt and a lava dome is building.
Mount Redoubt from the east on April 16, 2009. The volcano continues to spew steam.
Redoubt volcano as seen from an ERA flight between Anchorage and Kodiak on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Redoubt Volcano's Saturday morning eruption sent a large ash cloud to the Kenai Peninsula. Between 8 and 8:30 am Saturday morning, as the ash fell in Homer, it looked as dark as night although it was daylight hours.
Redoubt volcano and eruption plume on March 31, 2009. View is to the west. Note ash covered slopes in foreground.
Tire tracks in the snow with a light dusting of ash from Saturday's eruption of Mount Redoubt as seen at Point Woronzof on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
View of the growing Redoubt volcano lava dome on May 4, 2009. Note the tongue of blocky lava extending down the upper Drift gorge. A lighter gray slope of talus - rocky debris shed off the slowly advancing tongue of lava - fills the gorge downslope. The dimensions of the dome are about 510 x 760 m (1700 feet x 2500 feet) and at least 150 m (500 feet) high. Scientisits say another explosion is imminent.
This is the lower portion of the Drift Canyon. Visible is the central ice gorge down which flood waters travelled (waterfall and plunge pool in lower center); flow entering from left side of canyon is presumably from a runout generated by small pyroclastic flow (seen in webcam on 03/23/09). Observations made following two morning eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Redoubt continues to steam on April 20, 2009. Photograph was made by Robert Cole, a Peninsula Airways pilot.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009. View from the northeast across the Drift River.
Ashfall from Saturday April 4, 2009 6:00AM eruption of Mount Redoubt blankets Homer's Pioneer Avenue.
Steam and ash streams out of Mount Redoubt volcano on Tuesday March 31, 2009. Photos made by Iliamna Air Taxi pilot Nick Oppegard around 11:30 am on Tuesday on his way from Anchorage to Iliamna on a s scheduled flight at 16,000 feet.
Bird tracks in snow with a light dusting of volcanic ash from Saturday's eruption of Mount Redoubt as seen near Point Woronzof on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
USGS/AVO geologist Kristi Wallace, pondering the preserved tephra layers in the snow northwest of Redoubt volcano during fieldwork on Monday, May 4, 2009.
Mount Redoubt bellows steam and ash, seen from across the Cook Inlet in Ninilchik, Thursday, March 29, 2009.
The lava dome on Redoubt Volcano is active lava dome. The photograph of the top of the mountain was taken from the north by AVO's Game McGimsey. The bottom image shows the thermal image - the darker colors represent cool / cold material and as the colors get lighter, they represent the progressively hotter material - the white being the hottest. The thermal image is by Rick Wessels. The images were made on April 16, 2009.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Jeff Rogers, right, of Alyeska Sales and Service in Homer gives a quick lesson on automobile air-filter changing to Ashleigh Imlay, left, and Diana Imlay. Unable to catch a flight to Anchorage this morning due to Mount Redoubt's 6 a.m. eruption, the women were preparing to make the drive north.
Image grab from the AVO website of Mt. Redoubt Volcano at 8:20am on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 as sunrise hits the volcano. AVO Redoubt Hut webcam is located approximately 7.5 mi (12 km) from Redoubt's summit crater.
Ben Tesfu brings shopping carts in from the parking lot at the Carrs Safeway Aurora Village store while wearing a protective mask as ash from Mount Redoubt volcano falls on Anchorage Saturday evening March 28, 2009.
Rick Wessels examines ice-rich lahar deposits from Redoubt volcano on Thursday, April 30, 2009. The deposits are from the flood in March and are rapidly evolving as subsequent floods and warm weather work on them. This location is on the south side of the lower Drift River Valley. The deposit is capped by sand deposits from the April 4, 2009 flood.
This view is of the ash-covered lower Crescent River Valley following two morning eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Redoubt volcano, as seen on the morning of April 16, 2009, from Deep Creek, Kenai Peninsula.
Redoubt Volcano at 11:50 am on Sunday, April 5, 2009. Camera is located at AVO's Redoubt Hut, approximately 7.5 mi (12 km) from Redoubt's summit crater. This camera provides a view of the north flank of Redoubt.
This webcam on Mt. Redoubt shows a spattered lens after Saturday morning's 6:00 eruption. The volcano blew another ash plume an estimated 50,000 feet into the air, which then drifted over the western Kenai Peninsula. This image was made at 12:17PM April 4, 2009.
Redoubt Volcano in eruption during an observation and gas data collection flight on March 30, 2009. Continuous emission of volcanic gas, water vapor, and ash is producing a plume rising to about 15,000 feet above sea level. AVO scientists observed ash falling up to 25 miles downwind.
Redoubt volcano's ash cloud looms overhead between Kenai and Ninilchik Saturday afternoon March 28, 2009.
Sunset at Mt. Redoubt, taken from Clam Gulch, Alaska on April 24, 2009.
Redoubt volcano around 2pm on Thursday, April 16, 2009.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Redoubt's plume surrounds the setting sun April 1, 2009, as viewed from the mouth of the Kasilof River.
Redoubt Volcano in eruption during an observation and gas data collection flight on March 30, 2009. View is to the east. Continuous emission of volcanic gas, water vapor, and ash is producing a plume rising to about 15,000 feet above sea level. The haze at left below the drifting cloud is a region of active ash fall. AVO scientists observed ash falling up to 25 miles downwind.
Edith King covers her nose and mouth as ash from Mount Redoubt volcano falls on Anchorage Saturday evening March 28, 2009. King was waiting for the bus on Bragaw Street.
Summit crater of Redoubt Volcano showing the active lava dome and rubbly north front extending down the upper reaches of Drift gorge. This view is from high over the southwest rim. Note the persistent fumaroles up on the west slope of the gorge (left of center), and the diffuse ash plume rising lower in the gorge from hot debris shed from the dome.
Redoubt volcano as seen in an image grab from the AVO webcam across Cook Inlet on Thursday, April 16, 2009 shortly before 9am.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Redoubt volcano spews ash and steam on March 31, 2009.
Wes Bell wares a dust mask handed out by the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska to protect himself from the ash from Redoubt Volcano Saturday, March 28, 2009 as leaves the ski area 40 miles south of Anchorage. The volcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage first erupted Sunday night with the most resent eruption Saturday afternoon.
Lightning from Redoubt's 1:20 am, March 28, eruption.
Redoubt's gas plume drifts south toward Iliamna, April 20, 2009. Photograph taken near Homer, AK.
Redouby volcano as seen on an image grab from the AVO webcam north of the volcano about 8:51am on Thursday, April 16, 2009.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Angie Diefenbach from the Alaska Volcano Observatory works in a snow pit collecting ash fall northwest of Redoubt Thursday, April 2, 2009.
Volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt and winter road grime cloud the air on Tuesday morning, March 31, 2009, as traffic moves along Tudor Road in Anchorage.
Lightning from Redoubt's 11:20 pm, March 27, eruption.
The dome inside Redoubt Volcano during heli-supported fieldwork, on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.

Chevron suspended its oil production in Cook Inlet on Sunday because eruptions from Redoubt volcano are threatening the Drift River tank farm that the company needs to store its oil.

"It means that we can't produce oil because we have nowhere to ship it to," said Chevron spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz.

The dominoes began to fall Saturday when an eruption by the volcano prevented the transfer of oil from the Drift River terminal to a tanker and forced workers to seek emergency shelter. Floodwaters caused by rapid melting of the Drift Glacier covered the airstrip at the terminal, though tanks there holding 6 million gallons of oil stayed dry and undamaged.

Officials decided to close the terminal indefinitely Sunday as crews planned to try again at removing millions of gallons of oil from the terminal as early as Sunday night.

The Coast Guard had previously said the project might not start until today, because flood waters damaged a power generator needed to pump oil from the tank farm to the tanker.

"We got (the generator) fixed sooner than expected," said Santana Gonzalez, spokesman for Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co., which owns the Drift River terminal.

Redoubt activity remained unchanged since Saturday morning's massive eruption, Alaska Volcano Observatory volunteer Allana DeRuwe said Sunday.

A plume of steam continued to rise about 15,000 feet from the crater of the volcano, while some observers may see what looks like another plume on the northwest ridge. That's likely caused by hot rocks from the last eruption hitting snow and ice, DeRuwe said.

The Drift River terminal is a key link in the Cook Inlet oil production process as oil producers use it for storage and shipping.

Chevron operates 10 oil platforms representing the majority of oil platforms in Cook Inlet, Sinz said. The company shut in two platforms last week, and stopped production at the remaining platforms Sunday afternoon.

Normally, Chevron's Cook Inlet platforms produced 7,500 barrels of oil a day as of the end of February, Sinz said. That's worth $375,000 each day, at prices of $50 a barrel.

The entire Cook Inlet region averaged about 11,000 barrels a day of oil production in March.

In 1990, following the last series of giant Redoubt eruptions, 10 Cook Inlet oil platforms were shut down for more than a week because there was no place to send the oil.

The latest Redoubt eruptions could last for weeks. There's no way of knowing when production can resume, Sinz said. "Basically what it means for our Cook Inlet oil operations is that we are shut in until the volcanic activity diminishes and the Drift River terminal can be safely operated."

Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co. hasn't received any oil at the terminal since the day before Redoubt began its latest round of eruptions on March 22, Santana said. "Essentially everything's shut down."

PLANS IN PLACE TO REMOVE OIL

A tanker was expected to arrive at the Christy Lee platform, the offshore loading facility for the Drift River terminal, Sunday evening. The plan was to pump 60 percent of the roughly 6 million gallons of oil in the tank farm, said Marti Early, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The remaining oil was to be mixed with ballast water in order to weigh down the oil tanks, making them more stable in case another eruption floods the area.

But just last week, the unified command dealing with the oil-spill threat from Drift River issued a "fact sheet" explaining why using ballast water would be a bad idea.

The command -- which consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co. -- listed seven reasons, including:

-- Insufficient water supply at the Drift River terminal to fill the tanks.

-- Once injected into the tanks, the water "becomes a hazardous waste and there are no facilities on site to properly dispose of it."

-- Tankers aren't configured, to transport that much oily waste.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Bob Shavelson, director of the environmental group Cook Inletkeeper, when he found the fact-sheet gone from the unified command's Web site. He said the group is changing its story and was more concerned about maintaining production at the oil terminal than warding off a spill.

Early said that's not true.

"The top priorities have been safety to the people working ... and protection of the environment," she said.

As for why the unified command is changing its plans, she said: "Now that Cook Inlet Pipe Line made the decision to shut down the facility, then that opens up some other options."

Asked what happens if Redoubt erupts while the tanker is at the terminal and loading oil, Early said that the crews would have about three hours warning from the first signs of an eruption to disconnect the tanker.

Reporter Rich Mauer contributed to this story. Find Kyle Hopkins online at adn.com/contact/khopkins.

Video: Geologist describes Redoubt's biggest eruption this year
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By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com