Two Cook Inlet platforms could be shut down

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- Unocal Alaska may shut down two oil platforms in Cook Inlet, the company confirmed this week.

Roxanne Sinz of Unocal told the Peninsula Clarion Thursday the company was exploring options for shutting down the Baker and Dillon platforms. Both platforms are in the Middle Ground Shoal field west of Nikiski.

''We have an in-house group that is looking at and working with different regulatory agencies to determine what needs to be done'' before a platform can be decommissioned, Sinz said.

The platforms are still in operation, and no decision has yet been made on their future, she said.

Last month, the company announced it had begun reevaluating its future in Cook Inlet. At the time, Sinz said Unocal was moving its focus from growth to being more profit-oriented in the inlet.

Unocal has encountered a couple of setbacks in the inlet recently. The first came when three natural gas wells drilled in the Ninilchik area in February came up dry. The second came in April, when a fire on the King Salmon platform injured four workers and caused the company to suspend operations on the 7,000-barrel-per-day platform for a month.

The company remains a major player on the peninsula, however, with 250 workers. Unocal is a partner in a Kenai-Kachemak natural gas pipeline and the company wants to add to its production on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Since the first inlet rig began pumping oil and natural gas in 1967, only one of the 15 Cook Inlet platforms has shut down operations for reasons other than maintenance or an emergency.

Taking an oil platform out of service could provide many challenges for Unocal.

According to Bill Van Dyke, a petroleum manager with the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas, Unocal doesn't necessarily have to pull the platforms out of the inlet once operations have ceased.

However, the company would have to work with several state and federal government agencies in order to leave the platforms in place.

Van Dyke pointed out that one inlet platform, Marathon Oil's Spurr, has halted operations, but because another Marathon platform, called Spark, still produces oil and gas from the same lease area, the platform is currently in a ''cold shutdown mode,'' and doesn't have to be removed.

However, Van Dyke did say that, according to the original lease, Unocal would have to remove the platforms ''if it gets to the point there's no production on the lease.''

Unocal's Sinz said the company will know more after the first of November.

However, before that date she said any word on Unocal's plan for the platforms would be ''pure speculation.''

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