Construction on a sub-sea pipeline to bring crude from the west side of Cook Inlet to Nikiski could start as early as next May.
The project that’s been submitted to the Department of Natural Resources for consideration is basically the same as the one Cook Inlet Energy pitched last year; a 29 mile long, 8 inch diameter, U-shaped pipeline, joining production facilities at Kustatan with refining operations in Nikiski.
The work is being done by a subsidiary of Tesoro, a limited liability corporation called the Trans-Foreland Pipeline Company, which is wholly owned by Tesoro. Calls for comment from the company were not returned in time for this story, but last month, Cook Inlet Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council spokesperson Lynda Giguere told the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, a pipeline is the way to go.
“And although we are extremely supportive of Hilcorp’s effort at the Drift River terminal, we believe a pipeline is just safer.”
The Drift River terminal is one of many reasons for installing the pipeline. It’s a tank farm located at the base of Mt. Redoubt. When the volcano erupted in 2009, production was shut down entirely, with thousands of barrels of oil left at the site. An easy-to-see cause for concern for environmentalists. And, because of lost productivity, a concern for the industry as well. That’s cited in the project description Trans-Foreland submitted to DNR.
The company calls it “eliminating the business interruption risk of volcanic activity and ice movements to oil shipments through Drift River terminal.”
What this means for the Drift River terminal is unclear. Hilcorp spokesperson Lori Nelson says the pipeline doesn’t change their plans.
“Right now in the process, it really means nothing. There are really too many commercial and regulatory uncertainties surrounding the Trans Foreland pipeline project right now for us to make any definitive decisions moving forward.”
The design life for the pipeline is thirty years, and it will be continuously computer monitored for leaks or changes in flow or pressure that will move more than 60,000 barrels per day. According to the Right of Way application submitted to the state, the $35 million project comes with 130 construction jobs. Twelve people will be needed to maintain and oversee the pipeline once it’s in service.
Work is already underway clearing paths on the west side. Construction will begin in February. The pipe will be laid across Cook Inlet in May and September, to avoid the fishing season and Beluga whales, and the whole thing is scheduled to be done next October.