U.S. Declares Emergency After Quake Leaves Alaska in Darkness
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. federal authorities issued an emergency declaration for Alaska after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck on Friday, which left thousands without electricity and temporarily shut the state’s most important oil pipeline.
The authorities have been directed to provide assistance for Anchorage as well as Kenai Peninsular and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs, according to an alert from the Department of Homeland Security. The temblor hit 8 miles north of Anchorage.
The earthquake affected the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System that carries crude from the Arctic coast to the marine terminal in Valdez, which was shut for seven hours. It was was restarted late Friday, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman Michelle Egan said by phone. The line, which has the capacity to move 2 million barrels a day, had transported 530,000 barrels on Thursday.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said it will take more than a week or two to repair roads damaged by the powerful earthquake. The Anchorage airport was reopened Friday afternoon and is operating at reduced capacity, a state official told the Associated Press.
Alaska Air Group Inc. said it temporarily suspended operations at the Anchorage airport following the quake. “We understand there’s considerable damage being reported” at the airport, the company said in a statement.
Progress was made late Friday to restore electricity to the thousands of homes, while city workers were also responding to reports of 28 mainline water breaks and dozens of requests to cut off residential service because of flooding, the Associated Press reported.
There was one oil tanker at the Anchorage port, the Pacific Beryl, which was delivering jet fuel from South Korea to ports in Alaska.
Marathon Petroleum Corp. said it reduced operations at its 63,000 barrel-a-day refinery in nearby Kenai, while conducting inspections. Hilcorp Energy Co. has temporarily shut some of its operations in the area and is inspecting assets, which include oil platforms in Cook Inlet, not far from Anchorage. There have not been any spills or injuries at this time, the company said in an emailed statement.
Alaska produced 494,000 barrels of oil a day last year, with most of it sent down the Alaska pipeline to Valdez, where it’s shipped out by tanker, usually to U.S. West Coast refineries. No tankers were at the terminal when the quake struck and “everything is fine down there,” Egan said. A few smaller vessels were moved away from the shoreline.
Alaskan oil production began to rise two years ago after almost three decades of declines from a peak of more than 2 million barrels a day in 1988, according to U.S. Energy Department data. The state was the sixth largest oil producer in the U.S. in September down from third last year. It trailed Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and North Dakota, states that have experienced a boom in shale fracking in the past decade.
Shortly after the quake, President Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. government would "spare no expense." The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency have since been authorized to provide assistance as well as federal funding for the disaster.
The recent uptick in oil production came amid new investments along the Arctic coast and a push by President Donald Trump to expand drilling in the state. The U.S. administration is moving to expand the territory open for oil exploration in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, a process that could shift drilling rigs closer to herds of caribou and flocks of threatened birds.
ConocoPhillips said it "doesn’t believe" the earthquake had impacted its assets in the area. In October, ConocoPhillips received approval to develop its Greater Mooses Tooth 2 project just a week after announcing the first production from the Greater Mooses Tooth 1 development.
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