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Pipeline company rejects call for more vapor equipment at terminal

Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Officials with the company that runs the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline and tanker port at Valdez say they won't be installing any more equipment to capture toxic vapors released during oil loading.

Despite some criticism from a watchdog group that monitors tanker shipping and the port, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said it can handle the situation with the equipment already there.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council wants Alyeska to install the vapor recovery equipment to reduce air pollution.

Alyeska argued at the time it came under scrutiny from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the vapor collection equipment on two of its four loading berths would be enough.

The company said North Slope oil production was falling and that the equipped berths could handle the oil flow. Alyeska installed $100 million worth of vapor collection equipment on two of its loading berths.

Under a 1995 agreement with the federal government, Alyeska was allowed to load a portion of oil without vapor recovery until 2002. After that time, oil can be loaded without vapor recovery only for maintenance reasons.

But the same companies that own Alyeska -- primarily BP, Phillips and Exxon -- say now that North Slope production will not be falling in the coming years. They say oil flow has been stabilized at around 1 million barrels a day through 2009.

The new production numbers along with a number of problems at the terminal is forcing Alyeska to load a small amount of oil without vapor recovery. That prompted the Regional Citizens Advisory Council request for vapor equipment at another berth.

A sparking incident and valve trouble last month forced Alyeska to close one of two main loading docks. As a result, the company is doing more loading without vapor recovery.

''They need the flexibility of having another berth (with the equipment),'' said John Devens, RCAC executive director.

''Equipment is getting older,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''History has shown us that this is not getting easier for Alyeska.''

Alyeska spokesman Tim Woolston said that one berth alone can handle 80 percent of oil flow. The company will have enough capacity when the second berth returns to service next month, he said.

''It will be a matter of managing tanker schedules and inventory,'' Woolston said.



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