Alyeska plans to sell Berth 1, keep Berth 3 for other options
Anchorage Daily News
The owners of the big tanker port in Valdez say two of the four berths there are no longer needed for loading crude oil from the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The oil pipeline flow peaked at some 2.1 million barrels a day in the late 1980s, but it since has declined to about 700,000 barrels a day. That decline in North Slope production has resulted in a decline in tanker traffic. When oil throughput was at its peak, the four berths at the terminal "were needed to handle a constant stream of tankers. However, today it is not uncommon for several days to elapse between tanker callings," Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. told the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.
Five companies own the port and pipeline: BP, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Koch and Unocal. They applied to the state regulators to permanently stop using two of the berths for loading oil on tankers. They said they're not sure they need RCA approval and that they filed for approval "as a precautionary matter."
Berths 1 and 3 are the ones at issue.
Berth 1 floats on 13 buoyancy chambers and is 390 feet long. It can load up to 80,000 barrels of oil per hour. It has been used for off-loading diesel fuel consumed at the port. It could be transported by water to another location.
Berth 3 is a fixed platform, 122 feet long capable of loading 100,000 barrels a day. "Berth 3 will continue to be used and useful as a layover berth where tankers and other vessels can be moored for purposes other than loading crude oil," the owners said.
The two active, workhorse berths at Valdez are equipped with something Berths 1 and 3 lack: an ability to capture vapors from the oil emitted during the loading aboard tankers. The vapor capture lessens air pollution from the port.
Installation of such arms costs about $20 million per berth, the owners said, and federal environmental regulations require vapor recovery equipment for berths loading crude oil.
The Environmental Protection Agency allowed loading of crude oil without vapor recovery at Berths 1 and 3 until 2002. The berths haven't been used for loading oil since then.
Besides less oil being loaded in Valdez and the lack of vapor recovery gear at the two berths, newer tankers can be loaded much faster than years ago, the owners said.
The plan for Berth 1 is to sell it for use or for salvage value, "if either of those options is determined to be economical. Until then, Berth 1 can be used for purposes other than loading crude oil," the owners said.
Berth 3 can be used to park tankers when weather closes Prince William Sound, for vessel repairs, for support of oil-spill drills and for crew-member medical evacuations.Posted by Arthur Caldicott on 15 Jan 2009