Alaskan quake affects some oil facilities, but not all

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck on Sunday near the native Alaskan village of Kaktovik and part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the Trump administration plans to allow oil drilling, but no injuries or damage were reported.

U.S. federal authorities issued an emergency declaration for Alaska after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck last Friday, Nov. 30, leaving thousands without electricity and temporarily shutting the state’s most important oil pipeline.

The temblor, which occurred just before 7 a.m. (1500 GMT), was the most powerful on record to hit Alaska’s oil-producing North Slope, said Paul Huang, a seismologist and deputy director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

No tsunami alert was generated, though ground motion was felt as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska, nearly 400 miles (644 km) to the south. The quake, initially measured at a magnitude 6.5, was followed by a series of aftershocks, the largest of which was a 6.0 tremor, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake had no impact on operations of the Trans Alaska Pipeline system that carries North Slope crude 800 miles (1,300 km) to the marine terminal at Valdez, according to a statement from Alyeska, the consortium that runs the pipeline.

Alyeska said it would conduct follow-up inspections of the pipeline and related facilities. Inspection teams likewise found nothing amiss at the Prudhoe Bay oil field about 85 miles (137 km) to the east, said Megan Baldino, a spokeswoman for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc, which operates the field.

A city official says thousands of residents remain without electricity after a powerful earthquake shook parts of Alaska. Anchorage Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said Friday that progress was being made restoring power and utilities aren’t expecting protracted outages.

Falsey also said city workers were responding to reports of 28 mainline water breaks and dozens of requests to cut off residential service because of flooding. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker says it will take more than a week or two to repair roads damaged by the powerful earthquake.

Alaska Air Group Inc. said it temporarily suspended operations at the Anchorage airport following the quake. “This is much more significant than that,” he told reporters Friday at a news conference.

Walker leaves office Monday and says he advised the incoming administration of what his staff has been doing to take care of Alaskans affected by the quake.

He said members of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s staff had been involved with the earthquake response to further ensure a smooth transition. State Department of Transportation staff flew another Black Hawk to assess roads in and out of Anchorage.

Walker said says he has spoken to President Donald Trump and the White House has offered to help. But he didn’t say what help he had requested other than a disaster declaration.

A state official says Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is open and operating at reduced capacity with delayed flights following back-to-back earthquakes.

Alaska transportation and public facilities spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said Friday that no injuries were reported at the airport but light fixtures, water pipes and windows broke in the shaking. Bailey advised travelers to check with airlines about flight information.

She says some roads in the Anchorage area, including some leading to the airport, are impassible, and drivers should follow detour signs to drop off and pick up passengers at taxi and shuttle bus queues.

Bailey says most airport elevators and escalators have returned to service. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker surveyed Anchorage and nearby areas from the air in an Alaska National Guard Black Hawk helicopter to evaluate critical infrastructure damage after a major earthquake struck the state.

The governor plans to hold a news conference later Friday. As of September, Alaska was producing 471,000 bopd, 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.

An Air National Guard aircraft is available for search and rescue. Gov. Bill Walker says he was in an office building elevator when an earthquake rocked Anchorage and southcentral Alaska and caused widespread damage.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. said it reduced operations at its 63,000-bopd refinery in nearby Kenai, while conducting inspections. Walker said Friday he’s surprised the elevator did not get stuck. He says lights on the control board were blinking and things were falling from the ceiling.

Walker was a child during the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday earthquake that hit in 1964, devastating his hometown of Valdez. He said he wondered if Friday’s quake “could be the one.”

He says he spoke with President Trump and was assured by the White House that help was on the way. He said water pipes at his own home broke and he stopped there briefly to shut off valves.

Scientists say the damaging Alaska earthquake and aftershocks occurred on a type of fault in which one side moves down and away from the other side. “I felt a little shaking and felt dizzy, and felt the shelves shaking,” said Archie Brower, assistant manager at the Kaktovik Kikiktak grocery.

Alaskan oil production bottomed out in the last two years, after almost three decades of declines from a peak of more than 2 MMbopd in 1988, according to U.S. Jones says liquefaction can cause damage to structures because the ground moves out from beneath them.

Seismologist Lucy Jones told reporters Friday at the California Institute of Technology that the fault is within the Pacific tectonic plate that is diving under Alaska, a mechanism that produces the largest earthquakes in the U.S.

Jones says the type of damage being reported is not surprising. She says the area in which the quake occurred has loose sediments containing lots of water and when the ground moves it creates liquefaction, or “temporary quicksand.”

Tim Craig, an owner of Anchorage True Value Hardware in south Anchorage, says the quake knocked hundreds of items onto the floor and caused two stockroom shelves to become unbolted from the wall and collapse.

No one was hurt. Six off-duty employees, and some customers, offered to help clean up after the earthquake hit Friday morning. Craig and his wife were driving to the store when the quake hit and he says their car was bouncing.

An overhead traffic signal bobbing over their heads caused immediate concern and his wife pulled over because she was worried it would fall. The quake knocked out numerous stoplights, snarling traffic in downtown Anchorage.

The main earthquake was centered 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Kaktovik, a coastal Inupiat village of about 260 residents at the northern edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The epicenter also lies near an area the U.S. Interior Department plans to lease for petroleum exploration along ANWR’s coastal plain, which had been off-limits to fossil fuel development until a provision was enacted as part of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill.

The vast and environmentally pristine coastal plain, wedged between the Beaufort Sea and Brooks Range mountains, is prized for its importance to caribou, polar bears and other wildlife but is believed to hold billions of barrels of oil.

“Scientifically, however, this region is poorly understood and the behavior of the fault or faults responsible for today’s earthquake are not known,” the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks said in a bulletin.

Strong earthquakes are not uncommon in seismically active Alaska, but they tend to occur in remote, sparsely populated regions where there is little or no damage. State emergency officials said they had no reports of damage, but locals in Kaktovik said the tremor did not pass unnoticed.

In October, ConocoPhillips received approval to develop its Greater Mooses Tooth 2 project, just a week after announcing first production from the Greater Mooses Tooth 1 development.

Facebook Comments