Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline restarts at reduced rate

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline has restarted at a reduced rate following a leak that shut-down the pipeline over the weekend.

Revealed in an announcement from the pipeline operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, as well as regulatory groups US EPA and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System restarted operations the evening of Tuesday, January 11.

An oil leak occurred at Pump Station 1 in Prudhoe Bay, forcing Alyeska to shut-down the massive pipeline that transports about 15 percent of domestic oil from the North Slope of Alaska to Valdez, where tankers then complete the journey to mainland US.

Alyeska has been approved to restart the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, also known as TAPS, at a reduced flow rate while engineers work to design and build a bypass that will allow flow to circumvent the damaged pump station while investigations into the cause of the accident and repairs are ongoing.

A limited restart is necessary to prevent any additional risks the extremely cold weather may cause.

Restarting the line will help to increase temperatures in tanks and in the pipeline, helping engineers overcome freezing issues that can wreak havoc on the pipeline system. Additionally, the flowing oil will help to move a cleaning pig that is currently stopped between Mileposts 419 and 420; and if left too long in the pipeline, could cause damage.

Additionally, the limited flow will allow producers on the North Slope to increase production, which has been slashed by 95 percent since the leak occurred on Saturday morning.

It is unclear how limited the oil flow in the pipeline will be in the interim.

Once the bypass piping solution is fabricated, the TAPS line will be shut-down again for its installation.

Spanning 800 miles of the Arctic Tundra, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System transports some 630,000 barrels of oil a day. The pipeline is owned by BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Alaska Pipeline Co.

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