The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is seen on Sept. 19, 2022, in Fairbanks. This portion of the 800-mile pipeline, 450 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, has been transformed into a visitor pullout. A new report from the system's operator, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., is intended as the first in a series of annual reports on environmental, social and governance performance. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
An inaugural environmental, social and governance report issued by the operator of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System summarizes what the company said was overall positive work “as caretaker, steward, and operator” of the 800-mile oil line and its Valdez marine terminal.
The 19-page report, released last week by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., covers a wide variety of metrics from 2022, the system’s 45th year of operation. Subjects covered include greenhouse gas emissions from operating the system, which are trending down; notable repair and maintenance projects; freshwater use; Alaska Native hire and employee diversity; and worker injuries, which increased somewhat in 2021 and 2022 after falling substantially over the past two decades.
The report is planned as the first in a series of annual ESG reports, said Michelle Egan, Alyeska’s chief communications officer.
Alyeska has been issuing external and internal reports for years on specific aspects of its operations, and this ESG report is intended to combine that information, Egan said.
“Our view was we should pull this all into one publicly available report and we should follow a framework that people are familiar with,” she said.
Alyeska is owned by three companies with major shares of North Slope oil fields. Hilcorp’s Harvest Alaska unit owns 49.1%, the share that the company acquired from BP Plc. ConocoPhillips has a 29.6% share and ExxonMobil has a 21.3% share.
A requirement for recruiting and hiring a significant number of Alaska Natives has been in effect over Alyeska’s entire lifetime. Under an Alaska Native Utilization Agreement first signed in 1996 and renewed since then, the targets became more specific, listing 20% Native hire for Alyeska and its contractors and other goals, Egan said.
That 20% target has been met for more than a decade, she said. In 2022, Alyeska’s workforce was 27.2% Alaska Native and its contractor workforce was 20.5% Alaska Native, according to the report.
Major environmental events in 2022 included a response to “unprecedented challenges” from heavy spring snow that, combined with freeze-thaw cycles and glaciation, damaged equipment at the Valdez terminal’s storage tanks, the report said. The damage allowed hydrocarbon fumes to vent from the storage tanks, contrary to Clean Air Act requirements, regulators said at the time.
Other environmental work over the year included 12 integrity inspections and digs, one of them on a steep ridge at Keystone Canyon about 80 miles north of the Valdez terminal, the report said.
The report cites positive results from employee surveys, which showed that 83% believe Alyeska operates safely and 89% believe sufficient environmental safeguards are in place.
Those statistics contrast with findings in a report issued in April by a watchdog group that identified safety problems at the Valdez marine terminal.
That report, from the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, relies in part on information provided by employees and other people referred to as “concerned individuals.” It cites worker concerns about maintenance backlogs, aged and outdated equipment, cost-cutting and other issues.
“A significant percentage of the workforce believes that a serious incident is imminent, according to Alyeska survey data. It appears that the key element of Safety Culture – a commitment to safety as the overriding priority – has been replaced with a business focus on budget, which has strained resources and compliance,” the RCAC report said.
Risks are exacerbated by staff reductions at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and other agencies that regulate the terminal, the RCAC report said.
Egan said Alyeska has confidence in its safety performance and an “open work environment” in which employees are encouraged to share concerns. The company has been reviewing the RCAC findings, she said.
“We welcomed the report and their input,” she said.
The Alyeska ESG report also summarizes the company’s contributions to nonprofits around the state. It notes a special connection to the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage and to the sport in general. Betsy Haines, an Alyeska veteran who served as the company’s interim president in 2022 and early 2023, was a U.S. Ski Team member and Olympic athlete, and her niece is Kikkan Randall, a U.S. Ski Team standout who won numerous World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal. Randall is now executive director of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage.
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