Friday, July 30, 2010

Trans Alaska Pipeline

John had two major items on his list to see while in Alaska; Mt.McKinley and the Alaskan pipeline. . Yesterday we drove out to see the pipeline.There we were able to get all the facts on the pipeline which I will share with you, and hopefully it won't be too boring.
 As I mentioned in another posting, oil has defined the economy for Alaska since it started flowing from the fields of Prudhoe Bay in 1977. There is a consortium which own TAPS (Trans Alaska Pipeline System).  BP Pipelines Alaska has 46.9%, Conoco Phillips has 28.9%,  the rest is owned by three other oil companies. Production is now only about one-third of what it was at its peak in 1989, which impressed on me the fact that our natural resources always have an end point. TAPS currently supplies 15% of the U.S. oil production. There were many technical challenges when the pipeline was built. Moving hot oil across the permafrost soil of Alaska presented a special challenge. Large segments of the trans-Alaska pipeline were elevated above ground to keep the permafrost from melting. About half of the pipeline was buried in the conventional manner.
 There were 800 rivers to cross and three mountain ranges. Also 554 animals crossings had to be considered. You may notice structures that look like bumpers on the sides of the pipeline. That allows for some flexibility when earthquakes occur. There are constantly also the technical challenges of low throughput (wax and water buildup,frost heaves,ice crystals and plugs,etc). Since the construction of the pipeline pigs have been used to keep the flow going. Pigs are polyurethane cleaners which flow with the oil and prevent wax build up. Below is a picture of one of those pigs. I found all this information on the pipeline more interesting than I expected it would be. It will give me something to ponder on the next time I pump gas.

No comments:

Post a Comment