Hilcorp fined again for deviating from permit at Milne Point

a map shows prudhoe bay and milne point in alaska
(Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

A state regulatory agency has fined Hilcorp $267,000 for making unauthorized equipment changes at Milne Point, one of its North Slope oil fields.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission order says that Hilcorp’s drilling permit for a well called I-27 allowed for the use of an electrical submersible pump. An investigation later revealed the company had substituted a jet pump, without notifying the agency of the change.

The order says Hilcorp has a track record of regulatory non-compliance that includes more than 60 enforcement actions. Regulators found problems at Hilcorp operations in Cook Inlet and on the North Slope. Several of them were for making changes to a permitted plan. 

At Milne Point, three workers nearly died in 2015 after Hilcorp pumped nitrogen down a well without authorization instead of the seawater it said it was going to use. The nitrogen leaked into a trailer where the men were working.

Hilcorp said it launched an investigation as soon as it learned of the unauthorized pump substitution and has already begun revising procedures and training.

“An important part of Hilcorp’s culture is to get better every day, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with AOGCC to ensure compliant, safe and responsible operations,” the company said in an email.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Commission order says the steps Hilcorp has taken are too narrowly focused and are unlikely to prevent a similar re-occurrence.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her atlruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Lizhere.

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