Monday, January 17, 2011

Alaska pipeline restarted, oil flowing

by Mary Pemberton / The Associated Press Fairbanks Daily News Miner

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Oil began flowing again Monday through the trans-Alaska pipeline after workers installed a pipe to bypass a leak at a pump house station on the North Slope.

Alyeska Service Pipeline Co. said it hoped to increase the amount of oil in the 800-mile pipeline to 500,000 barrels during the next 24 hours.

The pipeline was carrying about 630,000 barrels a day before the leak was discovered on Jan. 8 in an underground pipe encased in concrete.

"We are really monitoring the pipeline and the equipment very carefully as we bring it up," said Michelle Egan, a spokeswoman for Alyeska, which operates the pipeline.

The pipeline delivers about 13 percent of the nation's daily domestic oil production to tankers for West Coast delivery.

The oil began flowing again after crews completed a 157-foot bypass.

"It is a complicated process," said Rachel Baker-Sears, a spokeswoman for the Joint Information Center set up in Fairbanks to handle the crisis.

She said the restart went smoothly, but it could take a few days for the pipeline to return to previous pumping levels.

During the initial shutdown, the flow was scaled back to 5 percent of previous levels and oil was collected in two large storage tanks at Prudhoe Bay.

The pipeline was temporarily restarted after four days but was shut down again on Saturday so the bypass pipe could be installed.

During the shutdown, a containment vault was used to collect the estimated 13,326 gallons of oil that leaked from the pump station pipe.

Egan said there had been no known harm to wildlife or the environment.


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