Sea-Tac running low on fuel : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sea-Tac running low on fuel due to pipeline's closure 2000-08-08 by Jeff Switzer and Nick Perry Journal Reporters

Sea-Tac International Airport is running out of jet fuel and has no contingency plan to get more supplies.

It is the busiest time of year at the airport, yet reserves have been depleted to just five or six days' worth of fuel. The airport gets all its fuel through pipes running from Anacortes, operated by Renton-based Olympic Pipe Line Co. Yet only one of two pipes has been operating since an explosion in Bellingham killed three people last year.

``We are running low off and on,'' said Sea-Tac spokesman Bob Parker. ``If something goes awry with the system we are using now, we could be in trouble. August is our busiest month.''

``We're talking with Olympic on a daily basis, but we're struggling'' with alternatives, Parker said. ``We're really concerned about the pipeline. We're very close to being on `E.'''

Since the accident, federal regulations forced Olympic to treat all its customers in the same way, said spokesman Dan Cummings. The company cannot send extra jet fuel down the pipe while other customers wait for gasoline.

``They get 100 percent of their fuel from us, and have no other way of getting it,'' Cummings said. ``Safety regulations mean they can't bring a truck loaded with fuel onto Sea-Tac grounds.''

The pipeline company was giving Sea-Tac whatever fuel it ordered until three months ago, when it became aware of the regulations and began dividing fuel evenly, Cummings said.

Fuel shortages could result in flights being delayed, he said, or planes landing at Sea-Tac partially-laden with fuel. The latter option could raise more safety concerns.

Sea-Tac gets supplies of jet fuel once a week from the pipeline. Before the accident, the airport usually had around 15 days' worth of fuel on hand.

Seattle is the key fueling point for Alaska Airlines flights, spokesman Jack Evans said. Less fuel flowing from Olympic's pipeline here, and two refineries closed due to accidents in California, have affected airlines.

``With these other refinery issues on the West Coast, we are dealing with a worst-case scenario in terms of fuel supply,'' Evans said. ``In the last year, three points of that system were pinched, and that certainly has had an impact on us in price and operations.''

In 1999, the airport had 433,660 landings and takeoffs, most of which were Alaska Airlines flights, the largest user of jet fuel at Sea-Tac. Despite rising prices, today's flights are using 1.8 million gallons of jet fuel each day, up from a typical 1 million to 1.25 million gallons per day.

Worries of supply are coupled with worries about costs. Jet fuel prices have occasionally doubled, leaping from 48 cents a gallon in January 1999 to 96 cents a gallon in January 2000. By March, it was $1.05 a gallon, Evans said.

And there's no more supply of jet fuel in sight for at least a year. New managers of Olympic Pipe Line Co., BP, said yesterday that the 16-inch-diameter line will not reopen until mid-2001, a year later than previous managers expected.

Jeff Switzer can be reached at jeff.switzer@eastsidejournal. com or 425-453-4234. Nick Perry can be reached at nick.perry@

-- Martin Thompson (, August 08, 2000

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