Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 27, 2017

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (914) 806-3467,

Hilcorp Pumped $3.6 Million in Oil Using Broken Gas Pipeline Before Cutting Flow

Cook Inlet Pipeline Leak Threatens Endangered Belugas, Violates Federal Law

ANCHORAGE— Hilcorp Alaska finally shut down its Cook Inlet oil platforms powered by a natural gas pipeline that has been leaking for months, the company announced today. The decision, made over the weekend after meeting with Alaska regulators and Gov. Bill Walker, raises questions about why Hilcorp didn't act earlier to reduce the flow of natural gas that has been threatening endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales and sending a potent greenhouse pollutant into the atmosphere.

At a reported output of 1,600 barrels per day, Hilcorp has produced about 78,400 barrels of oil from its Middle Ground Shoal Platforms A and C since the gas pipeline leak was discovered Feb. 7, or more than $3.6 million worth of oil at today's prices. If Hilcorp had acted immediately to reduce the natural gas flow to no more than the current 115,000 cubic feet per day flow it says it needs to maintain minimum pressure in the line, it would have prevented up to 8.3 million cubic feet of natural gas from entering the water column and atmosphere.

“It's disturbing that Hilcorp pumped millions of dollars worth of oil from platforms powered by a leaking pipeline spewing pollution into Cook Inlet,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has threatened to sue over the leak. “Hilcorp's long delay in shutting down its oil platforms further threatened beluga whales and worsened climate change.”

Hilcorp expects to repair the leak within 10 days now that sea ice has begun to clear. The underwater leak was discovered Feb. 7 but began in late December, Hilcorp has said. The company said the leak initially involved up to 325,000 cubic feet of natural gas, which was reduced to up to 215,000 cubic feet on March 13, and then down to no more than 115,000 cubic feet over the weekend.

Composed mostly of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, the natural gas leak also threatens critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales and other wildlife by creating a low-oxygen dead zone. Natural gas is toxic to fish and shellfish, and even low levels can displace them from their habitat. The leak is in the heart of critical habitat designated to protect Cook Inlet's belugas, which now number only 340.

“It's reprehensible that Hilcorp allowed this huge leak to continue for so long,” Monsell said. “Its ill-gotten gains should all be used to study and remediate the impact to belugas and the environment.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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