Oil and gas industry turns to Adak to support development

Kay Cashman

The former naval base at Adak on Adak Island in the Aleutian Chain will be operated as a logistics support terminal for the oil and gas industry offshore Alaska's North Slope, based on an agreement signed June 19 by Offshore Systems Inc., Aleut Enterprise and Aleut Real Estate.

The Port of Adak is referred to by its staff as "Port Aleutchon," a play on the name of Louisiana's Port Fourchon, a sea port with significant petroleum industry traffic from offshore Gulf platforms.

The former naval air station also has an airport with aircraft hangars, an instrument landing system and glidescope, 465,000 barrels of fuel storage, 400,000-plus square feet of warehouse space, a terminal and two asphalt runways. The runways are at 19-foot elevation and 200 feet wide, with one 7,790 feet long and the other 7,605 feet long.

Adak Airport is operated by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

According to Offshore Systems, there are more than 100 townhouse and hotel-type housing units available on the island, and hundreds more that simply need renovating.

"With the development of the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) in the Arctic by Shell and soon ConocoPhillips and Statoil, it makes sense to have a deepwater facility that is ice free year around with housing, office space, fuel capability, large runways and the infrastructure to support the equipment supplies and personnel for not only exploratory drilling, but the development of the production facilities as well," said Rick Wilson of Offshore. "Adak has 100-plus acres of flat paved access real estate for storing pipe and equipment that will be needed during the construction phase of sub-sea pipelines and associated facilities."

When asked in a follow-up email whether ship repair was available at Adak, and if there were cranes available to support it, Wilson said, "Yes, we have a crane and can get more or bigger. Dry dock is also something we can offer but it's not there yet."

Closed in 1997, the naval base and much of Adak Island was transferred to the Aleut Corp., an Alaska Native regional corporation and parent of Aleut Enterprise and Aleut Real Estate, in hopes that it could develop industry and attract residents because of the facilities left behind by the Navy.

Adak Island was a strategic point in the Aleutian Chain during World War II and later in the Cold War. At its peak, 6,000 Navy and Coast Guard personnel and their families made the island home. At that time Adak had a college, a McDonald's restaurant, movie theater, roller-skating rink, swimming pool, ski lodge, bowling alleys, skeet range, auto hobby shop, photo lab and racquetball and tennis courts. A new $18 million hospital was built in 1990, seven years before the closure of the station.

About 30 families with children relocated to Adak in 1998, most of them Aleut Corp. shareholders. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population is 326.

Adak currently provides a fueling port and crew-transfer facility for the Seattle- and Alaska-based fishing fleets. Adak Fisheries, an employer of a large seasonal staff, processes Pacific cod, pollock, mackerel, halibut, snow and king crabs. A few residents hold commercial fishing permits, primarily for ground fish, but commercial fishing vessels based out of Seattle and other parts of Alaska provide most of the work for the fish plant by regularly off-loading their catch in Adak.

Wilson pointed out that flights between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor/Unalaska with its single 3,900-foot runway are often one stop, flights to Adak are direct on Alaska Airlines' 737-400 jet service, meaning 43 minutes less time in the air.

Offshore Systems operates the largest privately owned marine terminal in Dutch Harbor.

"In 2010, OSI built a berth specifically for Shell Exploration's drill ship, the Kulluk, and is Shell Exploration's current Dutch Harbor shore base," Wilson said in an email.

"Offshore Systems, Kenai (OSK) operates a similar terminal in Cook Inlet catering to the offshore oil and gas industry from their shore base facility in Nikiski ..." he said.

Adak, formerly Adak Station, is the western-most municipality in the U.S., the southernmost community in Alaska, lying on the same latitude as Vancouver Island, Canada, and Brussels, Belgium.

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