PHMSA Calls For Major Work On Trans-Alaska Pipeline

March 2011, Vol. 238 No. 3

Federal pipeline regulators want the trans-Alaska pipeline operator begin major work to make the 33-year-old, 800-mile line less susceptible to accidents as the amount of oil flowing through it declines, according to an AP report on Feb. 14.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s proposed actions last month were led by its ongoing probe of the oil spill and emergency shutdowns of the pipeline in January. A cement-encased, buried pipe was discovered leaking into a basement at Pump Station 1, near Prudhoe Bay, on Jan. 8.

The agency is concerned that Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. can’t check part of the pipeline system for corrosion and that it takes too long to restart the line after shutting it down, among other issues.

Michelle Egan, a spokeswoman for Alyeska, said the company doesn’t agree with all of the agency’s findings and recommendations. The company does agree with the agency on other matters and is already working on some projects the agency has asked for, she said.

To fix the leak, the trans-Alaska pipeline was shut down twice for 142 hours. Due to limited storage, oil companies had to severely curtail output from North Slope oil fields, disrupting as much as $300 million worth of production. The leak was contained inside a building at Pump Station 1 and did not cause environmental contamination, according to regulators.

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