The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Trans-Alaskan Pipeline Deliveries on Hold

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 11, 2011

No oil is flowing through the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline for the fourth day today as workers construct a bypass around a leaking pipe at Pump Station 1. The leak was discovered in a secondary line which is encased in concrete below the pumping station on Saturday. Oil was discovered flowing into the basement where the line passes through a wall. Siphoning trucks have recovered about 18 barrels of oil from the basement as oil remaining in the line continues to leak.

The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which operates the 800-mile pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska, has had welders working around the clock to circumvent the leaky pipe and restore the flow of oil. According to the Anchorage Daily News, this is the third longest closure in the pipeline's 33-year history. In recent months, it has been transporting about 625,000 barrels of oil a day largely to the West Coast and accounts for about 12 to 13 percent of U.S. domestic production.

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It's important to resume the flow of oil through the pipeline as quickly as possible. With no oil moving through the line, oil remaining in the pipeline can become chilled allowing ice and wax to form, according to state, federal and Alyeska officials.

"If we delay startup for too long, then we run the risk of pushing that wax and ice through the pipe and causing more damage and a longer shutdown," Alyeska's Michelle Egan told the Anchorage Daily News.

About 200 Alyeska employees are working to restore service. Some are building the 157-foot bypass line at Pump Station 1, while others are checking for leaks all along the big pipeline on the ground and from the air. The work is being closely coordinated with officials from the federal government and the state of Alaska.

Oil production on the Alaska's North Slope has been reduced to about 5 percent of capacity during the pipeline closure. Bloomberg reports that refiners along the West Coast have reported little or no impact from the disruption.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.