Alyeska cites power failure, lack of situational awareness as factors in contained oil spill

By Becky Bohrer, AP
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

AK pipeline operator lists causes of May oil spill

JUNEAU, Alaska — The operator of the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline system says an internal review has found that a power failure and lack of “situational awareness” contributed to a roughly 4,500-barrel contained oil spill in May.

Michelle Egan, a spokeswoman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., says the company isn’t releasing the report because it wants to ensure worker privacy and a candid flow of communication.

The line was idled for nearly 80 hours in late May. Alyeska said a power failure during a planned shutdown caused valves to open, leading to an oil overflow from a storage tank to a containment area.

Egan says the review deemed power failure the root cause but another issue was that workers were so focused on restoring power that they didn’t have the “situational awareness” to anticipate the tank overflow.

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