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Alaskan Pipeline

ALASKAN PIPELINE

ALASKAN PIPELINE. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline carries freshly pumped crude oil from America's largest oil deposit at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's North (Arctic) Slope, 789 miles south to the ice-free port of Valdez on Prince William Sound. Richfield Oil Co. (later merged with Atlantic Oil Co. to form ARCO, Inc.) discovered the Prudhoe deposit in December 1967. Settlement by Congress of Alaska Native lands claims and environmental challenges cleared the way for construction, which began in March 1975. The pipeline required the labor of 28,000 personnel, cost $7.7 billion, and was completed in May 1977.

The 48-inch steel pipeline, partly buried and partly elevated, had by 2001 carried 13 billion barrels of oil, about 17 percent of America's daily supply. The line is owned and operated by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., a consortium of North Slope oil producers including British Petroleum-Amoco-ARCO, Exxon Mobil, Phillips Petroleum, Unocal, Amerada Hess, and Williams Alaska.

After the initial Prudhoe Bay discovery, subsequent exploration by a number of oil companies located more, though smaller, deposits. Production from these is carried in the line as well. Through the injection of seawater and re-injection of natural gas, more oil had been recovered than initially anticipated. Production peaked in 1988 with 2.1 million barrels daily. In 2001 the line carried 1 million barrels daily.

At Valdez the oil is pumped into ocean tankers that carry it to refineries in Washington and California. Some is exported to Asia. By 2001 more than 16,000 tankers had been loaded at Valdez. In March 1989 the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, spilling 10.8 million barrels, the largest oil spill in North America. In September 2001, an individual shot a hole in the pipeline north of Fairbanks, spilling 6,800 barrels, the first such puncture.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Coates, Peter A. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Controversy. Bethlehem, Penn.: Lehigh University Press, 1991; Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 1998.

Roderick, Jack. Crude Dreams: A Personal History of Oil and Politics in Alaska. Fairbanks, Alaska: Epicenter Press, 1997.

Strohmeyer, John. Extreme Conditions: Big Oil and the Transformation of Alaska. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

StephenHaycox

See alsoPetroleum Industry .

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