ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal regulators have ordered Hilcorp Alaska to replace a 7-mile (11-kilometer) undersea pipeline after a helicopter pilot spotted a natural gas leak bubbling to the surface last week.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on Tuesday said the company must also submit and the agency must approve a restart plan before the line in Cook Inlet can resume operations.
The leak is the fifth one for the line since 2014, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The line must be temporarily repaired by April 17 and permanently repaired by May 1, the federal agency said.
Hilcorp has until late May to provide a plan to replace the aging pipeline. The company then has one year to replace the pipeline, the order said.
The agency also gave Hilcorp six months to determine the cause of this latest leak.
Hilcorp has the right to request a hearing in response to the agency’s order.
The pipeline ships fuel gas from the Nikiski area to power two offshore platforms that Hilcorp temporarily shut down following the discovery of the leak. The agency said the hole in the line is about a quarter of an inch (0.64 centimeters).
The company said the leak was stopped Saturday by activating block valves.
Hilcorp is the largest oil and gas producer in Cook Inlet. The company did not respond to requests for comments by the Anchorage Daily News or The Associated Press about the agency’s decision.
Several state and federal agencies have expressed concerns to the pipeline agency about the damage the leaking gas is causing to marine life in the Cook Inlet, the order said.
The line leaked twice in 2014 before Hilcorp took ownership of it. Under Hilcorp, it leaked in 2017 and led the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to increase the number of inspections of the line. It also leaked in 2019 after divers found a leak during an inspection, the newspaper reported.