Red Hill Expecting to Finish Defueling Early, Pipeline Unpacking Could Start Next Week

December 8, 2023 6:03 PM
A member in support of Joint Task Force-Red Hill (JTF-RH) inspects the quality of fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii Dec. 7, 2023. DOD Photo

Joint Task Force – Red Hill plans to begin unpacking pipelines starting on Dec. 12, a move that could accelerate its defueling timeline by a month, the task force said in a Thursday release.

The task force, which is in charge of defueling the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, still needs regulatory approval before it can begin to unpack the pipelines, according to the release.

Joint Task Force – Red Hill started with gravity defueling to remove jet and maritime fuel from the 14 storage tanks at the facility. Gravity defueling, during which 103,458,180 gallons of fuel was drained, finished on Nov. 17.

During gravity defueling, the joint task force was able to get the tanks down to the 7-foot level, instead of the planned 10-foot, which allowed it to drain approximately 1 million more gallons, according to a JTF release.

Once the task force was able to remove as many gallons of fuel as possible through gravity defueling, where it uses gravity to allow the fuel to flow through pipes and eventually to numerous tankers, it began the process of flowable tank bottom defueling. During this process, a smaller pipeline at the bottom of the tank is used to remove the remaining fuel from the tanks.

JTF-Red Hill was able to remove approximately 60,000 gallons through this process, according to a video put out by the task force. Originally flowable tank defueling was set to begin on Dec. 15, but because the task force was able to drain each tank to the 7-foot mark, it was able to start the process earlier and finished on Friday.

The task force now turns to unpacking the pipelines. There is about 174,000 gallons of fuel left in the pipe, according to a video put out by the joint task force. The team will use gravity to defuel the pipelines, then turn to low point drains and pumps to remove more fuel from the pipelines. Residual fuel in the pipelines will need to be removed with a different method.

Joint Task Force- Red Hill currently leads the defueling mission, but is supported by the Navy Closure Task Force-Red Hill. The Navy team planned to take over the closure of Red Hill once the joint task force finishes removing residual fuel in March. Under the accelerated timeline, that could happen as early as February.


Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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