Division of Spill Prevention and Response

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The Alaska Risk Assessment Project has reached a major milestone with the release of three reports (which may be downloaded by following the link above):  

 

  1. Final Report on North Slope Spills Analysis and Expert Panel Recommendations on Mitigation Measures by Nuka Research and Planning Group, LLC.

  2. Review of Select Foreign and Domestic Approaches to Oversight and Management of Risk and Recommendations for Candidate Changes to the Oversight Approach for the Alaska Petroleum Transportation Infrastructure by CYCLA Corporation

  3. Summary of Phase 1 Alaska Risk Assessment, Accomplishments and Challenges by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

The State of Alaska initiated the Alaska Risk Assessment  project in 2007 to provide a baseline risk assessment of the oil and gas infrastructure in Alaska. The goal of the ARA project as authorized by the State Legislature was to conduct a system-wide risk assessment that evaluates the risks associated with the system and to assess the reliability of the existing infrastructure to operate for another generation. These reports are a noteworthy step toward that goal.

 

Key findings and recommendations from the reports include:

 

1.  North Slope Spills Analysis - this reports analyzes data from spills on the North Slope oil production infrastructure.  The analysis was reviewed by an Expert Panel, which in turn developed recommendations to reduce the frequency and severity of these spills.

 

  • The analysis found that there is no significant trend over time, neither up or down, in the frequency of spills from the oil production infrastructure.

  • There is some evidence that the severity of spills is increasing over time.

  • Of the categories of infrastructure examined, flowlines accounted for the most oil spilled.

  • Valve and seal failure was the cause of the most spills, but corrosion was the leading cause of large spills.

  • The data show that older pipelines are more likely to experience spills compared to newer pipelines.

  • The analysis suggests that reducing the time to detect spills could dramatically reduce spill severity.

  • The Expert Panel recommendations include:

    • The State should take measures to reduce the time required to detect pipeline leaks.

    • The State should collect more data and oversee implementation of corrective or preventative measures to evaluate their effectiveness.

    • The State should establish a system of escalated enforcement on operators that have more severe spills.

    • The State should adopt an integrity management program, especially for flowlines.


2.  Review of Other Approaches to Oversight and Management - this report investigates approaches used by other agencies and countries to regulate oil production.

  • The primary job of regulators is to require practices that reinforce the operators responsibility to ensure safe operation of their facilities.

  • The State should not unilaterally undertake a Risk Assessment without significant cooperation from the operators.

  • Oversight should be strengthened by evolution not revolution - refine the existing system rather than implement radical changes.

  • Operator reporting should be expanded to improve the understanding of the effectiveness of management systems.


3.  Summary of Phase 1 Accomplishments and Challenges - this report summarizes the original approach to the Alaska Risk Assessment and responds to comments on the proposed methodology. 

  • The original proposed methodology could not be implemented without cooperation from the oil production infrastructure operators.

  • A review by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and the public comments found the proposed methodology to be problematic.

  • This input led the Project Team to revise their approach to the project and develop the approach that resulted in the North Slope Spills Analysis and the Review of Other Approaches discussed above.