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Alaska Beat

Cook Inlet council: Replace Drift River Oil Terminal with pipeline

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published July 25, 2012

On Wednesday, the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council (RCAC) sent out a press release recommending that the Drift River Oil Terminal and its tankers that shuttle fuel across Cook Inlet be replaced with a subsea crude oil pipeline within the next five years.

The Drift River Oil Terminal, owned by Hilcorp Alaska, is located near Mt. Redoubt, which rumbled to life in 2009. The eruption caused the river valley to flood, with a subsequent shut down of the Drift River Facility. Although the facility was not comprised, it was threatened by the flooding, leading some to call the storage of oil at the base of the mountain the "worst idea ever," while others applauded the flooding response effort as "a success."

Now the Cook Inlet RCAC has put in its two cents. Although Hilcorp presented detailed plans to improve the facility's security against possible future eruption, the Cook Inlet RCAC released a position paper on July 11 calling for a change to the current system, which requires the shipment of oil across Cook Inlet in crude oil tankers from the facility. It is "not ideal," with tanker traffic increasing the risk for vessel accidents or oil spills, the paper states.

The position paper led the way for Wednesday's press release, which recommends that a pipeline be constructed within the next five years to replace the system currently utilized by Hilcorp.

"It is the Council's position that a properly engineered subsea pipeline presents a much lower risk than a marine facility and associated tanker traffic, and represents the best long-term option for the Inlet's future oil transportation from west side production operations to the east side refinery," Cook Inlet RCAC's Executive Director Mike Munger said.

In addition, the council recommends that the Drift River Oil Terminal remain open temporarily, under the condition that Hilcorp Alaska use the detailed plans they had previously presented to increase flood control protection.

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