Archive for the ‘Fuel’ Category

Will We Have A Winter?

December 22, 2014

Usually a common sight in the winter.

Usually a common sight in the winter.


While so many parts of the lower 48 are having a colder than ‘normal’ winter most of Alaska has been basking in temperatures that resemble fall more than winter!

In Bristol Bay much of the area remains less than fully frozen, causing many to be watchful. Other areas of the state share many of the same concerns.

The winter activities so many of us not only enjoy but count on cannot happen with these many days above freezing temperatures. Our rivers are not fully frozen over, the creeks are dangerously open in many places and lakes still have only a thin coat of ice.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

Travel to accomplish things like setting and checking winter trap lines, a source of income for some and hunting for winter meat are hampered. For those who do ice fishing, it is very dangerous without a nice thick layer of ice.

Being able to visit with others, important to so many in the winter, has been slowed to include the only more expensive methods, such as using an airline. If this keeps up many winter festivals will have to be rearranged and different activities thought of.

Without a nice layer of snow to insulate things the frost level will go deeper into the soil, causing more winter loss on such things as native berries, trees and of course all those beautiful peonies our state is becoming well known for.

Wildlife surveys that are accomplished during the winter months have been put on hold too, waiting for a good snow covering so tracking is easier.

While these warmer temperatures are nice in that we are not using up our winter budget as quickly on heating fuel, it does make most wonder if that will be offset by some really long, cold snap later this winter. The lack of wind, that often comes with winter weather, or even strong sun is cutting into the renewable energy output for some communities.

For those of us who either farm or garden it has allowed for more fresh winter produce to survive than might normally be possible. (this news has traveled around the state with much excitement!) Many of us are also seeing our chickens continue to lay eggs at a higher level, due to less feed needed to just stay warm.

Long term forecasts call for this weather pattern to continue into late summer of 2015. We could well move into still another summer of almost ‘hot’ weather, more forest fires, lots of bugs and winters that leave us wondering if this is going to be more the norm than not.

So for those in the Lower 48 that are dealing with still another winter of tough temperatures and travel conditions, know many are wishing the weather pattern would send the snow and icy temperatures north again!

Crowley VP: “I hate to say it won’t happen, but it doesn’t look good at the moment for getting our last (fuel) deliveries up to our terminal in McGrath”

September 13, 2009

Sep 13, 2009

Since 1896 Crowley Maritime Corp., then known as Black Navigation, has been moving fuel and freight in Arctic Alaska during the short window between break-up and freeze-up. Each year they race against the clock to deliver millions of gallons of fuel across Bush Alaska.

This year there was a delay in re-opening Tesoro’s Black Nikiski refinery on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula after an annual maintenance break so Crowley contracted to import a third of its fuel supply, 24 million gallons, from a South Korean refinery. Chartered tankers hauled 570,000 barrels, roughly equal to three quarters of the daily throughput of the trans Alaska pipline, to the “Drill, Baby, Drill” state.

And if anyone wonders why fuel prices are higher in the Bush, Crowley VP Craig Tonga explains why in today’s Alaska Dispatch:

The tankers held steady in the deep waters off the Seward Peninsula as Crowley barges lightered cargo for transport into the shallow ports along the Alaska coastline. As many as three barges are needed to offload the fuel under optimum conditions – but as Crowley is well aware, that’s not a scenario to be counted on offshore Alaska. A storm could hit and pound the waters for seven days straight, trapping the fuel ship at a cost of $50,000 or more a day while barges linger at port. And such costs weigh into the final prices rural Alaskans pay for their fuel, Tornga says.

Crowley also buys fuel from Flint Hills Resources’ North Pole refinery but getting Alaskan fuel to Alaskans is also challenging.

Fuel from Flint Hills’ refinery in North Pole begins its journey to the Bush on rail tankers, ending up at the shores of Cook Inlet, where it’s loaded on barges. From barges the fuel is transferred to offshore vessels, and then to terminals. In Kotzebue, for example, fuel may be shifted to a river barge destined for communities up the Koyuk River, and then possibly trucked before it ends up in village fuel tanks.

Western and northern Alaska beyond Dutch Harbor lack ports deep enough to accommodate the draw of a loaded oil vessel. So the tankers sit well back from the shores and a fleet of smaller vessels lighters fuel off the tankers, shooting out to communities with deliveries. In some places, beaches have no docks. Barges are stuck waiting for the tide to change. In others, docks lack headers for offloading fuel, and crews have to reel out up to 1,000 feet of 4-inch hose to move the product to storage tanks. To serve a few communities, Crowley’s ships carry ramps, a crane and a truck; the truck is offloaded to the beach, where it’s filled to 5,000 gallons before making a drop down the road.

Stricter EPA regulations will drive the price up further in coming years but for now the focus is on getting the fuel to the villages in time this year.

In the Interior, nights are already dropping below freezing, and the Kuskokwim River at McGrath — about five feet shallower than normal at this time of year — has started to freeze.

“I hate to say it won’t happen, but it doesn’t look good at the moment for getting our last deliveries up to our terminal in McGrath,” Tornga said. “Finishing the season is very contingent on how soon it’s going to freeze up, and (if we are) going to have enough water in those rivers to make the deliveries.”

Is anyone else wondering why Alaska is so eager to pump its natural gas to us down here in the lower forty-eight when it could be put to much better use in its own backyard?