Hilcorp shuts down oil platforms to address Cook Inlet gas leak

Location of a natural gas leak taking place from a pipeline owned by Hilcorp in Cook Inlet. (Image courtesy Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation/NASA)

Hilcorp announced Saturday (March 25) that after discussions with Alaska Governor Bill Walker, it’s shutting down two oil platforms in Cook Inlet in response to an ongoing leak from a gas line. The pipeline carries natural gas from shore to power four oil platforms in Cook Inlet. Two of the platforms have already been shut down.

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Natural gas will still flow through the line at about half the previous rate until the line can be repaired.

The pipeline used to carry oil before it was converted into a fuel line. Hilcorp claims completely shutting down the gas flow could cause water to enter the line, which could lead crude oil to leak into Cook Inlet.  Also, both the state and Hilcorp said keeping gas flowing to the platform will ensure essential safety equipment continues running.

Governor Walker praised the company’s decision in a press release, saying, “I appreciate that the company officials are implementing a prudent plan of action. Alaskans want peace of mind that our waters are protected.”

According to Hilcorp spokeswoman Lori Nelson, shutting down the platforms could make it difficult to restart oil production after repairs are made. The platforms produce approximately 1600 barrels of oil per day combined.

Hilcorp first detected the leak in February, but data show the line has been leaking since December, according to the federal agency in charge of the incident. Dangerous ice conditions in Cook Inlet have prevented divers from fixing the line. Hilcorp reported Friday that weather forecasts indicate it may be able to start repairs in the next two weeks.

Elizabeth Harball is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk, covering Alaska’s oil and gas industry and environmental policy. She is a contributor to the Energy Desk’s Midnight Oil podcast series. Before moving to Alaska in 2016, Harball worked at E&E News in Washington, D.C., where she covered federal and state climate change policy. Originally from Kalispell, Montana, Harball is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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