Corrosion-Plagued BP Makes Corrosion-Related Donation
UAA receives gift from oil giant that will be up and running for the upcoming fall semester
Pipe corrosion has plagued Prudhoe Bay unit operator BP since a major spill in 2006.
Now the oil producer is making an investment for in-state corrosion testing and research.
BP Alaska President John Minge announced a $1 million grant to the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) for a corrosion laboratory that is expected to be operational on the campus by this fall.
"This is huge for us," said Matt Cullin, the UAA assistant professor who will be the director of the lab.
The BP Asset Integrity and Corrosion Lab will be the first such facility in the state.
Cullin said it will vastly expand the opportunities for students in mechanical engineering.
"...So that students can come in, get the fundamentals of corrosion engineering, get some exposure to people in the industry, go out, get an internship during the summer, get some real field hands-on experience and then bring back one or two projects that they'd like to work on during the following semester."
"It ties directly with our high-demand-job emphasis in the university and it will give our students the ability for hands-on work to ensure relevant marketable job skills," said UAA Chancellor Tom Case.
Minge said the company's $1 million donation creates a win-win situation.
"It's going to dramatically increase the capability of integrity testing here in Alaska, instead of having to send stuff outside and the lab will be capable of conducting research and testing for multiple industries – not just for oil and gas."
Minge declined to comment on whether the donation is an attempt at rehabilitation of BP's public image, following a string of court cases involving corrosion and pipeline maintenance.
But Cullin said the BP engineers deserve credit.
"We have an aging infrastructure that's past its design service life,” said Cullin. “And so to me the fact that every day that we go by and they keep doing their jobs and mitigating corrosion problems up there and avoiding spills, to me, I just tip my hat to them for that because it's a tough job."
Whatever the motive, BP's gift means that a laboratory unique to Alaska will be up and running on the UAA campus for the first semester of the next school year.
Minge took the opportunity during today's announcement to renew his call for an overhaul of Alaska's oil production tax during the legislative session now under way.
In an interview he pledged $5 billion of new investments if the legislature passes something similar to the bill proposed by Governor Parnell.
In December a federal judge terminated BP's probation resulting from the March 2006 oil transit line leak, for which the company was assessed a $20 million criminal penalty.
BP has resolved the federal civil complaint related to that spill.
Meanwhile, the company and the state of Alaska will have an arbitrator resolve the main issue in their civil litigation, involving a partial shutdown at Prudhoe following another leak in August 2006.
A BP spokesman said the company spent $120 million on corrosion monitoring last year, triple the amount in 2004.