Alyeska workers struggle to repair Alaska pipeline
Employees of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. were moving as quickly as possible Tuesday to weld together a 157-ft section of pipe in order to bypass the leaking pipeline. The leak was discovered on Saturday at Pump Station 1. The incident occurred in a concrete-encased section of pipe below ground near the station’s basement, and resulted in about 10 bbl of crude flooding the station. The company reports that some 200 workers are onsite to attempt the rerouting. The plan to bypass the leaking pipe would connect one of three booster pumps, according to the the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Workers have begun the process of draining the existing discharge pipe and installing a blind flange to seal it off and install the bypass line, according to the department. Alyeska hopes to return the line to service within a few days, but has not released any specific target date. If the line can be restored within a short period of time, then the operator could perform a “normal restart,” but if the line is shut down for an extended period, then a “cold restart” would be required. This involves circulating oil through the equipment and employing freeze-prevention measures, according to the department.
Production from North Slope oil fields, which continues at 5% of the normal volume, is being stored in tanks at Pump Station 1. With crude inventories at a multi-year high, there was no immediate concern that the rupture would interrupt refineries.