Processing Magazine

Oil to be removed from tank farm near volcano

April 29, 2009
The Associated Press reports that a tanker has arrived at the Drift River Terminal near Alaska''s erupting Mount Redoubt volcano to remove remaining oil from a storage facility. A spokesman with the Cook Inlet Pipeline Co. said the transfer means that most of the oil at the terminal on Cook Inlet will be removed -- something that conservationists have wanted since the volcano began erupting in late March. After some final testing of equipment, the transfer was to begin and could take about 48 hours. In early April, about 2.5 million gallons of oil remained in two tanks at the terminal after more than half the oil was removed. It was unclear at that time if the company would go ahead and remove the rest of the oil. After the initial removal, about 840,000 gallons of water was pushed back into the tanks to prevent them from becoming buoyant if the tank farm flooded. Officials said the double-hulled tanker would receive as much of the oily water mix as possible. The Drift River Terminal is about 22 miles from the Mount Redoubt. In recent weeks, some mudflows from the volcano that continues to erupt have reached the concrete-reinforced dikes surrounding the terminal. Conservationists feared that the mudflows would damage the tanks, resulting in a large spill that could devastate Cook Inlet''s valuable fisheries. Upstream producers for the oil transfer hired a Chevron tanker. Once the transfer of oil is complete, water that was transported in the tanker''s ballast tanks will be pushed back into the now mostly empty oil storage tanks to address the buoyancy concern. During the transfer, the tanker''s bridge will be manned 24 hours a day. Its engines also will remain in standby mode. A tug will be stationed nearby. The process of cleaning the tanks, which takes anywhere from two to four months working around the clock, will have to wait. The state''s on-scene coordinator said the top priorities are the protection of the environment and the health and safety of people. If there is a spill during the transfer, equipment is there, including skimming vessels and storage tanks, officials said. Conservation groups have repeatedly questioned the sense of having an oil storage facility so close to one of the United State''s most active volcanoes. Chevron and Cook Inlet Pipeline and the upstream producers are considering options for the future of the terminal. It remains closed and is staffed with personnel only during the daytime.