Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pump station leak shuts down TAPS

Pump station leak shuts down Trans Alaska Pipeline System


Published: January 8th, 2011 07:23 PM

The 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline is shut down due to a leak at Pump Station 1 on the North Slope.

tool nameclose tool goes here North Slope oil producers have been asked to cut their production to 5 percent of normal.

An oil line encased in concrete leaked an unknown quantity of crude oil just outside a booster pump building, according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman Michelle Egan. Alyeska operates the line and its pump stations.

A crew doing a routine inspection noticed the leak this morning and Alyeska shut down the pipeline at about 9 a.m., Egan said.

"There's no visible oil on the tundra," Egan said. "We believe it's all inside that casing."

While Alyeska staff believe the leak is contained, Egan said, they wouldn't know for sure if it had escaped that concrete structure until crews had a chance to excavate around the pipe. Crews are working to determine how to fix the line and get the pipeline running, Egan said.

Alyeska is unsure when oil might start flowing, she said.

"We want to make sure that we aren't going to make the situation worse by restarting, so we're being very careful and methodical about that," Egan said.

BP is in the process of cutting off production at the fields it operates, said Steve Rinehart, Alaska spokesman for the oil company. It will take time for wells to be shut in and pipelines and other facilities to be freeze protected.

Normal production from the North Slope fields averages around 630,000 barrels a day of oil. A 5 percent production level would be about 31,500 barrels a day. The oil fields have limited storage capacity, and the production that occurs will go into storage while the trans-Alaska pipeline is shut off.

BP runs most of the oil fields on behalf of itself and the other leaseholders. Conoco Phillips and Pioneer Natural Resources also run fields. BP, Conoco and Exxon Mobil are the major producers on the North Slope.

Rinehart said it was unclear how long the pipeline shutdown would last.

The pipeline runs from the North Slope to a tanker port in Valdez. Pump Station 1 is at the beginning of the pipeline. Alyeska runs the pipeline for the five oil companies that own it: BP, Conoco, Exxon, Koch Industries and Chevron.

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