Crews remove snow from damaged Alaska pipeline oil tanks

An oil tanker docked at the Valdez Marine Terminal in 2018. (Elizabeth Harball/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Contractors are using saws to cut off large blocks of hard-packed snow and then shoving the chunks off oil storage tanks at the end point of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in Valdez.

More than four feet of snow fell in Valdez between mid-February and mid-March, causing a buildup of snow that has damaged infrastructure and vented petroleum vapors into the environment, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.

The recent snow has been worsened this year by wet weather, which caused the snow to freeze during the colder weather, said Donna Schantz, who leads the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council. The group monitors the activities of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which operates the pipeline.

The tanks are located at the Valdez Marine Terminal, and Alyeska said it has taken some of the 14 tanks out of service at times. However, there have been no disruptions to oil shipments, the company said.

Now, up to 80 contractors wearing respirators are working in shifts around the clock to clear snow off the tanks, Alyeska spokesperson Michelle Egan said. Additional resources are expected.

The contractors are roped to the tops of the tanks and have to use saws to remove the snow since they can’t use power tools.

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