Unocal spills oil in Cook Inlet

Platform loses 84 gallons of crude, produced water

Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2005

Unocal Corp. spilled about 84 gallons of crude oil and produced water from an oil platform into Cook Inlet on Thursday in the biggest spill from industry in the inlet this year.

The spill was caused by a valve failure on the Anna Platform, 10 miles northwest of Nikiski, according to an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation report.

The spill happened at 11:15 a.m. Unocal reported the spill to the ADEC 10 minutes later, according to the report.

No fisheries have been closed as a result of the incident.

"Unocal is a very responsible operator. We never like putting oil in the water," said Unocal Spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz.

The platforms will be shut down until the problem that caused the spill is fixed, she said. There were no injuries to any personnel.

According to ADEC records, this is the fourth oil spill from industry in the northern part of Cook Inlet this year — the third from a Unocal platform. One of those Unocal spills was less than one gallon, according to the records.

ADEC and Cook Inlet Spill Response Inc., which responded to the spill, did not know know how much of the spilled oil and produced water actually escaped into the inlet. Sinz said that information was not available.

Bob Petit, environmental specialist for the ADEC, described the spill as, "a mist that was pouring out of a vent." This means the oil and produced water was not in a big pool, making it more difficult to clean up, he said.

"This should not have significant impacts to the environment," Petit said.

Petit said the cleanup efforts are complete because the oil has now dispersed into the inlet.

"Any time there's a spill in the inlet it's a pretty big deal," said Terry Bryant, director of operations for the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

CIRCAC is a citizens advisory council formed under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to monitor crude oil marine transportation and oil facility operations in Cook Inlet.

Michael Munger, CIRCAC executive director, said CISPRI's response to the spill was rapid and adequate.

CISPRI Operations Manager Buzz Rome said this was the first spill his organization responded to this year.

"Things will happen and you have to do all that you can to prevent it," said Lois Epstein, senior engineer for Cook Inlet Keeper. "Clearly in this case, they didn't do all that they could because it happened."

Cook Inlet Keeper is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Cook Inlet watershed.

This incident raises a question about whether Unocal is doing adequate maintenance on an ongoing basis, she said. It's a concern but not a large concern, she said.

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