By Chris Klint
Channel 2 News
12:23 PM AKST, December 17, 2012
ConocoPhillips has agreed to pay more than $200,000 in state and federal fines to settle environmental claims related to two oil spills from corroded pipelines at its Kuparuk River oil field in 2006 and 2007, regulatory agencies said Monday.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the state fines include $78,283 for a March 2006 spill as well as $77,009 for a December 2007 spill. The federal Environmental Protection Agency didn’t participate in enforcement actions for the 2006 spill, but assessed a $45,000 penalty for the one in 2007.
In addition, ConocoPhillips will pay the state $112,273 to reimburse its investigation and enforcement costs in the case. It will also finish restoring about a third of an acre of land polluted during the spills.
“We are glad to bring this legal matter to a successful conclusion and to focus on the lessons learned from these two events,” state Attorney General Michael Geraghty said in a Monday statement from DEC. “It is important that appropriate measures be instituted to prevent these types of events from occurring in the future.”
Flow lines, which transport crude oil, water, gas and solid matter from production wells to processing centers, were involved in both incidents. About 500 gallons of contaminated water containing small amounts of crude oil were released during the 2006 spill, which was later attributed to corrosion within the pipe.
The 2007 spill, which included 2,870 gallons of contaminated water and 1,370 gallons of crude oil, was blamed on external corrosion due to what DEC calls “an anomaly in the manufacture of pipe insulation that allowed water to be drawn to the sidewall of the pipe.”
The EPA says crews built a 300-yard-long ice road to improve access to the spill site, eventually hot-flushing oil from the ground then recovering it from snow into which it was mixed.
ConocoPhillips conducted a joint investigation with DEC of the 2006 spill, and took a series of remedial measures against corrosion after the 2007 spill. The settlement requires the company to continue its work on preventing future incidents, including improving its program to monitor the corrosion of flow lines.
DEC says it has added new requirements for monitoring and repairing flow lines since the 2007 spill. In a Monday statement on the settlement, ConocoPhillips says it has also improved its internal oversight in response to the incidents.
“Spill prevention and protection of the environment are top priorities for ConocoPhillips,” company officials wrote. “Lessons learned from these two incidents about potential corrosion pathways have been applied to our integrity management program, which has been subjected to rigorous internal and external oversight. ConocoPhillips continues to spend significant funding on pipeline inspection, asset renewals such as pipeline replacements and pigging infrastructure upgrades and to advance technologies that provide continuous improvement.”
ConocoPhillips isn’t the only oil company to recently pay for pipeline-related problems. An arbitration panel awarded the state $255 million from BP last month, settling state claims related to production tax losses after the company experienced Prudhoe Bay pipeline failures due to corrosion in 2006.
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