Regulators Investigate Oil Discovered in Soil at Old Alaskan Spill Site

Alaska regulators are investigating crude oil discovered along a buried section of the Trans-Alaska pipeline north of Fairbanks.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. recovered 10 gallons (39 liters) of crude oil discovered on Sunday following an excavation at the site south of Atigun Pass, the Anchorage Daily news reported.

Crews inspecting a mainline valve discovered the oil in soil and an excavation at the site is continuing, said Alyeska Pipeline spokeswoman.

 "Engineering and field personnel are assessing the situation and developing plans to safely excavate the valve and to determine the cause of crude oil in the excavated area," the spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

An environmental program specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation said that the oil could have been overlooked from the 2013 oil release that occurred at the same site. 21 gallons (79 liters) were linked to the soil movement that occurs as tundra freezes and thaws, she added.

Although finding some oil traces were probable, the amount found by the inspection crew was more than expected.

"We're working through Alyeska to develop a cleanup plan, and to figure out if this is contamination left from the 2013 release or whether it is indicative of a new issue at the valve," the environmental program specialist concluded.

Houston Chronicle

Targa Resource's New Pilot Project Uses Bugs To Clean Soil After Spills

Targa Resources has a pilot project in McKenzie County that will use bioremediation (known as land farming) to remove spilled oil and allow the soil to be reused. The alternative method will introduce bugs to contaminated soil.

“When you spill hydrocarbon, there are naturally occurring microbes – bugs – that immediately start to eat it,” said David McQuade, senior environmental director for Targa. “I’m adding a bunch more bugs that want to eat it at a faster rate.”

After completing a successful land farming project on the Fort Berthold Reservation last year, Targa got permission from the Tribal Business Council to do bioremediation at the company’s facility in New Town.

Microorganisms added during the Bioremediation process begin to degrade contaminants in the soil. Crew workers periodically make sure the microbes have enough oxygen by working the soil after it is spread about 8 inches thick in order to accelerate the process.

The bugs digest the hydrocarbon to convert them into carbon dioxide, water, and organic matter.

“Naturally, the soil at end of process becomes a very, very fertile material, sometimes more fertile than it was before the spill,” McQuade said.

He added that the process only works for hydrocarbon spills and not brine.

Since microorganisms hibernate in the winter, the project is expected to continue into next year.

McQuade said he’s meeting with policy makers and leaders of the Northwest Landowners Association regarding possible solutions to speed up the permitting process.

Bismarck Tribune