Valdez Oil Terminal Tanks Damaged By Heavy Snows; Require Digging Out By Hand

We Think The Weather's Bad Here!   80 Contracted Snow Shovelers Are Working Day & Night To Dig Out Snow-Damaged Oil Tanks Snow shove...

We Think The Weather's Bad Here! 

80 Contracted Snow Shovelers Are Working Day & Night To Dig Out Snow-Damaged Oil Tanks

Snow shovelers on top of tanks. (Photo, Alyeska Pipeline) 


A response to excessive snowfall at the Valdez Marine Terminal is ongoing with teams working on East Tank Farm crude tanks to clear snow and protect vent valves and other equipment. Heavy snow that accumulated rapidly during February and March is pushing down and out toward the tank perimeters, and has broken off nine valves to date. Crews have successfully installed temporary plugs or blinds on eight of those valves, and proactively plugged an additional at-risk valve.


TAPS has remained operational throughout the response with no delays to tanker loading. The VMT operations and maintenance teams, as well as OCC and engineering, are fully engaged in these efforts. TAPS workers are asked to limit distractions to these teams as they focus on this important work. 


More than 80 people are engaged in snow removal around the VMT and more than 50 have formed snow removal crews that work diligently to safely make paths through the deep snow toward the vent valves so that the valves can be inspected and repaired or protected as needed. Additional resources to staff the effort are on the way.


Tank top snow removal is challenging, especially in changing weather conditions. All workers are wearing traction devices; several have slipped while conducting their work, resulting in four first aid injuries. Safety personnel are on site providing support and work-rest cycles are being managed to prevent soft-tissue injury. To provide for the safety of employees, crews working in the tank farm are outfitted with respirators and other PPE to use as needed. Safety has established air quality monitoring at the East Tank Farm and at landmarks around the VMT and has not detected actionable levels of hydrocarbons beyond the East Tank Farm.


“I’m proud of the TAPS Team, and how we’ve continually adjusted our response to respond to a very dynamic situation,” said Danika Yeager, Alyeska Interim President. “Valdez has experienced its snowiest season since the noteworthy winter of 2011-2012, a memorable winter to all who worked through it. I want to commend our crews at the VMT, including snow removal contractors Houston Contracting Corporation and CCI, for their hard work and diligent progress.”


Valdez Deals With Heavy Snow At The Terminal 

It's not easy. Contractors are using saws to cut blocks of snow and ice and methodically trying to clear the tops of 14 massive Valdez Marine Terminal oil storage tanks. 

Heavy snowfall in Alaska this winter has been causing damage throughout the state. On Thursday, March 24th, Alyeska Pipeline announced that piled-up snow had hurt the tanks at the terminal in Valdez. 

Alyeska Pipeline spokesperson Kate Dugan told the Journal: 

"We are controlling the vapor pressure in tanks with damaged vents so that they’re 'at atmosphere' or the same pressure as outside the tank, or at a slight negative pressure to prevent vapors from escaping the tanks. Once a vent was identified as leaking, crews adjusted the pressure within the tank to atmosphere or slightly negative pressure. This minimizes or eliminated vapors released into the atmosphere, and we are able to verify this with special equipment that can detect vapors."  

Tanks at the Valdez Oil Terminal (Photo, Alyeska Pipeline Website) 

A story in the Anchorage Daily News  Thursday said that the oil terminal has taken "multiple tanks" out of service.

Contractors removing the snow are not allowed to use machinery or power tools on top of the tanks, the ADN quoted Michelle Egan of Alyeska as saying. There are more than 80 contracted snow-removers now working on the tops of the storage tanks. They have to use respirators, and are working day and night. They have to be specially tied-in to keep them on the slippery roofs. 

Snow Removal Information (Alyeska Pipeline Website) 

Not Just Valdez
At Christmas, the roofs at the Delta IGA and Buffalo Center in Delta Junction both collapsed under the weight of the snow. Heavy snows have been a big problem in Interior Alaska through much of the winter. In the Copper Valley, between Valdez and Delta (especially at Gakona Junction and north), snow has been unusually deep, in comparison to a normal year.  

Valdez, of course, is always worse. Valdez frequently has heavy snows. In the time since the Pipeline was built, Valdez (which calls itself "The Snow Capital Of Alaska") had 46 feet of snowfall in the winter of 1989-90. Average snowfall in Valdez is 300 inches. 

Tourist Display Of Valdez Snow Removal Equipment (Photo, Country Journal) 

The ADN story said that the tanks each hold a half million barrels of crude oil and are as big as an acre each. Four tanks are now out of commission, and snow has sheared-off valves that manage oil vapors and pressure buildup. 

The story said that oil was still being moved out of the terminal. 


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