2 Small Eruptions Occur at Alaska Volcano

By Mary Pemberton | March 27, 2009

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt Volcano erupted at least twice Wednesday, March 25, as officials from a pipeline company assessed conditions at a nearby oil storage facility to determine whether to remove its contents.

The Cook Inlet Pipeline Co., which is partly owned by Chevron Corp., was planning to look at whether a pumping system could be used to offload 6.2 million gallons (23.5 million liters) of oil stored in two tanks, if Chevron decided to remove it.

Pipeline contractor Lana Johnson said Chevron has made no decision and that an airplane runway next to the facility was covered with debris and was unusable until cleared.

“Right now, nothing can happen, because you can’t bring any equipment in, because the runway is closed,” Johnson said.

The small eruptions on March 26 were picked up by seismic monitors, which showed that a 10-minute blast occurred after 5 a.m. at the volcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. That eruption emitted an ash plume about 15,000 feet high that drifted to sparsely populated areas to the north and northwest, the same direction as earlier explosions since Mount Redoubt began erupting March 22.

A second eruption about five hours later did not emit an ash cloud detected by radar, which meant ash did not rise above 12,000 feet.

Geologists said volcano-caused mud flows and flooding would remain a hazard in the Drift River valley, where the Cook Inlet oil facility is located. Johnson said an initial assessment found no damage to the oil tanks or a cement dike around the farms but that the terminal building was flooded. The facility had evacuated all 11 people from the site on March 23.

The terminal, which was built in the 1960s by Unocal, stores oil produced from Chevron-owned oil platforms in Cook Inlet. Chevron is redirecting oil that would have been bound for Drift River to two other facilities.

The company is working on a contingency plan for when those storage facilities reach capacity, expected to be in 10 days, spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz said.

Post-eruption photos are available at www.avo.alaska.edu/activity?Redoubt.php. A podcast interview with the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar about the eruption taped on March 23 an be accessed at www.doi.gov/news/audio/podcasts/index.html.

Source: USGS, AP

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