Pipeline Spewing 310K Cubic Feet of Gas a Day into Ocean & Govt’s Been Allowing it for Months
Alaska — An eight-inch pipeline in Alaska’s Cook Inlet has been belching up to 310,000 cubic feet of methane into the ocean each day, for more than three months — but it could be May before anyone can shut it down.
(1) Odd Trick Forces Your Eyes into Perfect 20/20 Vision in 7 Days (Watch) In December, Hilcorp Alaska’s pipeline ruptured and began spewing an enormous quantity of methane into the ocean — but the leak went unreported to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration until a helicopter pilot spotted frothing and bubbling at the surface on February 7.
“PHMSA said that the natural gas discharge could pose a risk to public safety, the environment and marine mammals and has given Hilcorp until May 1 to permanently repair the line or shut it down,” EcoWatch reports.
By May, another 16 million gallons of the environmentally-deleterious gas could empty into the sea, conservation groups admonished — several of which submitted a letter exhorting the Trump administration for an immediate shutdown.
“This dangerous leak could stop immediately if regulators did their job and shut down this rickety old pipeline,” asserted Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, on the crippled 52-year-old structure. “We’re disgusted with the Trump administration’s lack of concern about this ongoing disaster. Every day the leak continues, this pipeline spews more pollution into Cook Inlet and threatens endangered belugas and other wildlife.”
CBD and the other groups warned a leak of methane this voluminous could create a hypoxic, or low-oxygen, zone, among other dangers — likely posing an “imminent threat” to endangered beluga whales, wildlife, and the delicate ecosystem.
As methane shoots upward from 80 feet below the surface, the primary plume remains potent while some gas diffuses into the water. Bacteria metabolize this diffuse methane using oxygen — resulting in a low oxygen content area — and produce carbon dioxide, which then also raises the acidity level of the sea.
“Those high concentrations of methane can have direct impacts on any organisms that might come in contact with water that’s supersaturated with methane,” explained Chris Sabine, a chemical oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cited by InsideClimate News.
A Russian toxicologist wrote in a 1999 book on the environmental impact of the offshore oil and gas industry that methane quickly penetrates ocean organisms and can “disturb” critical life functions — meaning the inlet’s creatures could be in serious trouble.
But no one knows for sure.
“It’s a question of how quickly the concentrations are being diluted, and at what levels will they still impact the marine ecosystems,” Sabine said. “That’s where we don’t know enough yet.”
Indeed, a dearth of critical information — from where, precisely, the leak is emanating and its impact on the ecosystem — remains obscured due to the heavy ice cover and rough seas also preventing crews from remedying the issue. Scientists worry this could be the making of yet another oil and gas industry catastrophe.
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