Hilcorp gets more time to replace leaky pipeline in Cook Inlet

Cook Inlet oil platforms are visible from shore on Dec. 13, 2016 near Kenai, Alaska.
Cook Inlet oil platforms are visible from shore on Dec. 13, 2016 near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

The federal agency that regulates pipeline safety is giving oil and gas company Hilcorp three more months to fix a line running under Cook Inlet.

The spill site, near Nikiski in Cook Inlet. (Graphic courtesy of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)
The spill site, near Nikiski in Cook Inlet. (Graphic courtesy of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Hilcorp’s line, which delivers fuel gas to a system of oil platforms in the inlet, sprung a leak last month. The 55-year-old pipe has leaked several times prior, most recently in 2019.

In response, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, ordered the company to repair the line and come up with a plan for its replacement.

PHMSA originally gave Hilcorp until May 1 to permanently repair the line. Now, Hilcorp has until Aug. 1.

A spokesperson from PHMSA said the agency granted Hilcorp an extension in response to a formal request from the company.

The deadline to file a replacement work plan has also been pushed back by several months, to Sept. 1. Originally, that was to be done no more than 45 days after the order.

Meanwhile, the line remains shut off and no gas is running through it.

The shutdown pipeline appears to be impacting production, though Hilcorp declined to comment on that, as well as the status of the repairs to the pipe.

Data from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, however, shows that the system of platforms the pipeline fuels — called the Middle Ground Shoal — didn’t produce any gas in April, and it produced fewer than 2,000 barrels of oil. That’s down from over 38,000 barrels of oil and nearly 7 million cubic feet of gas in March before the pipeline leaked and was shut in.

The PHMSA spokesperson said Hilcorp removed a section of the pipeline and sent it to a lab for analysis. They say the agency’s investigation is still ongoing.

The leaky line is 7 miles long and 8 inches wide. It was built in 1965 and had two reported leaks in 2014, a year before Hilcorp bought the pipeline. Leaks occurred again in 2017 and 2019.

Last month’s leak occurred about 6 miles offshore from Nikiski.

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