Oil spill prevention regs outlined

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New state oil spill prevention regulations were spelled out for oil and gas industry representatives meeting in Kenai on Tuesday.

Lydia Miner, manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s exploration, production and refineries section, told members of the support industry Alliance that the changes are not in direct response to recent spills and pipeline corrosion detected on the North Slope, but rather are the second of a four-phase DEC regulation review and update.

Miner said the seven staff members in her section manage regulations for four refineries in Alaska, 12 production facilities, 19 exploration facilities and two crude oil pipeline terminals.

“Our mission is to keep oil in the container,” she said.

Changes to the regulations include increased oil spill prevention training and documentation requirements as well as new and revised regulations for flow lines, above-ground oil storage tanks and facility piping, Miner said.

The oil spill prevention training requirements have now been moved into a section by themselves, she said, and require that personnel who inspect, maintain or operate oil storage and transfer equipment must be trained in company and state spill prevention measures. Training records must be kept for five years.

For the sake of the regulations, piping is defined in the revised regulations as “piping that carries oil between a well pad or offshore platform and a production facility,” she said.

Flow lines are required to have either leak detection devices in place or a documented preventive maintenance program.

Regarding portable storage tanks, Miner said vaulted, self-diked and double-wall shop-fabricated tanks — as defined in the regulations — are exempted from some secondary containment requirements.

Effective dates for the new regulations vary.

Regulations covering design and construction go into effect in 2009; regulations covering operations and maintenance go into effect in 2008; and remaining regulations are effective at the end of this year.

“I can’t come to the Kenai Peninsula and not talk about natural gas,” Miner said.

“All exploration wells must have an approved c-plan (Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan) and financial responsibility ... insurance ... in place,” she said.

If it is determined a well will not encounter liquid hydrocarbons that can flow to the surface, an exemption can be obtained from the c-plan and financial responsibility requirements.

Miner said all the changes in the DEC regulations can be found on the department’s Web site at www.dec.state.ak. us/spar/ipp.

“These regulations haven’t changed since 1992,” Miner said.

“We know you want consistency in the regulations — we do too. We also want to involve ourselves in continuous improvement,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session following her presentation, Miner said the next part of the regulatory review would involve crude oil transmission lines.

Phase one of the review resulted in changes to the c-plan requirements made in 2000.

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