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Redoubt Fallout for Chevron

Posted by msrb on April 8, 2009

The mighty Chevron Corp bites the volcanic dust

The mighty Chevron Corp has been forced to suspend production from its Cook Inlet oil operations in Alaska, following an indefinite shutdown at its storage facility, thanks to Mt Redoubt Volcano’s eruptions.

Chevron operates about a dozen offshore platforms in Cook Inlet producing up to 10,000 bpd. However, the company suspended on Sunday all production after Redoubt’s 20th explosion since March 22.

The explosion interrupted operations at the Drift River Oil Terminal  on the western shore of Cook Inlet.

“The terminal had been closed since March 22, when Redoubt began erupting. Chevron, which operates the offshore Granite Point, Trading Bay and McArthur River oil fields, has since struggled with storage space. The company cut production at the mature fields in response to the volcano problems, and a week ago shut in two of its platforms.” Reuters reported.

“Chevron is considering ways to restart production without using Drift River, spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz said. ‘At this point, we’re taking a look at some options,’ she said.
The Drift River terminal lies at the mouth of a river that flows from the volcano. The Drift River valley is subject to lahars — mudslides and floods created when volcanic explosions melt the snow and ice on the 10,197-foot peak.”

The storage tankers pose a contamination risk to the cook inlet and surrounding areas.  The terminal briefly reopened over the weekend to allow a tanker to load about a half of the 150,000 barrels of crude oil that had remained stranded since Redoubt’s resumption of activity in March. However, the officials said they had no plan to do anything else right now.

“The risk to people at this point outweighs the benefit of any additional effort,” the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Rod Ficken, vice president of Cook Inlet Pipe Line, which is owned by Chevron and Pacific Energy Resources, said: “We don’t have an idea exactly what will happen. We will wait for the volcano to rest,” Ficken said.

Explosions at Redoubt volcano, about 170km southwest of Anchorage, have ejected 15-20km ash clouds into the air, leaving a legacy of volcanic particles and ash in the surrounding areas and forcing numerous flight cancellations and a temporary shutdown of the main Anchorage airport.

Lahars Near the Drift River Oil Terminal


Besides volcanic ash, the eruption of Alaska’s Mount Redoubt posed another hazard in early April 2009. The volcano’s activity sent lahars—muddy volcanic avalanches—through Drift River Valley, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Because an oil storage facility, the Drift River Oil Terminal, is located in the river valley, a catastrophic lahar could have caused an oil spill.

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 same day that ALI acquired this image, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported that a lahar had developed in the Drift River Valley, as indicated by seismometer readings. Lahars had also been recorded in the Drift River Valley during the previous weeks.

On April 6, 2009, the tanker Seabulk Arctic carried 3.7 million gallons of crude oil away from the Drift River Oil Terminal, reducing the risk of a massive oil spill. (On March 22, 2009, at the beginning of Mount Redoubt’s period of unrest, the facility contained 6.2 million gallons of oil.) A lahar struck the area on March 23, but a dike built in 1990 kept the facility’s oil tanks dry.   NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 Team. Caption by Michon Scott. Instrument:   EO-1 – ALI. Image acquired April 4, 2009.

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