Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alyeska completes report on spill causes but says it’s confidential

JUNEAU - Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the operator of the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline system, said on July 28 that an internal company review found that power failure and lack of "situational awareness" contributed to an oil spill in May.
Michelle Egan, a spokeswoman for Alyeska, said the company isn't releasing the report, “wanting to ensure worker privacy and a candid flow of communication.” The report, she said, is intended to be an internal working document, to help identify any shortcomings or areas in which the company can improve.
Egan said that lessons learned, including a need for greater situational awareness, are being put into practice during scheduled maintenance shutdowns of the line this summer.
In late May, the TAPS line was idled for nearly 80 hours, after Alyeska
said a power failure during a planned shutdown caused normally closed
valves to open, leading to an overflow of oil from a storage tank to
a containment area.
Estimates of the oil spill ranged from about 4,500 barrels to around
5,000 barrels.
Egan said the review deemed the power failure the "number one root cause." But she said another big issue was that workers were so focused on restoring power, they "didn't have the situational awareness to anticipate the tank filling and overflowing."
With power down, the operations center in Anchorage couldn't see what was happening at the affected pump station - and provide a needed backup to workers focused on restoring power, she said.

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