British Petroleum–BP–has its hands full these days with the major oil spill that continues to flow in the Gulf of Mexico. Another oil spill, this one in Alaska that occurred in May 2010 also involves this corporate giant.
An 800 mile stretch of pipeline happened at a pump station in Fort Greely, located approximately 100 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska. 100,000 gallons of oil were spilled during a scheduled pipeline shutdown. Problems with a main system power failure caused the pump system to go to its back-up battery power. But the battery-powered system malfunctioned, causing a relief valve not to close.
The pipeline is owned by various oil companies, but BP holds the largest chunk at 47 percent ownership.
Workers at the site were evacuated, with no injuries occurring. A report. by an Alaskan State Department of Environmental Conservation on-site spill coordinator indicated that the spill was confined to the pump station’s containment area (Huffington Post).
In September 2009, a natural gas line owned by BP exploded, sending shrapnel flying across the landscape. The recently formed Alaskan state Petroleum Systems Integrity Office (PSIO) determined that corrosion of the pipe was the reason for the explosion. Although no one was injured or any material leaked from the pipe, there was a potential for the occurrence to have had more dramatic consequences.
The PSIO had been less than pleased with the response by BP to this explosion, and as recently as February 2010 was still seeking appropriate documentation from the oil company about the incident and preventative measures for the future. The agency’s hands are tied by-and-large because it has merely an overseer position; it cannot impose penalties or enforce laws/regulations.
BP spokesman Steve Rinehart acknowledged the September 2009 incident by stating, “This had the potential to be a more serious event, and we are taking it seriously” (Reuters). Additionally Rinehart stated, There was not a recording method in place sufficient to make sure that this spot got onto the to-do list to inspect when the snow was gone. Now there is.”
It is frightening to consider if a company as large and experienced as BP had no plan in place to inspect their lines, snow or no snow, what other details have been overlooked.