Pat McDevitt, a senior project director for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., talks Tuesday about issues with lower flows in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline at a House Resources Committee meeting.
"The pipeline is larger than we really need right now," said Pat McDevitt, senior project manager for low flow studies for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the operator of the pipeline.
The flow, which once peaked at more than 2 million barrels of oil a day, is now less than 700,000 barrels per day as Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope oil fields age.
If a pipeline were built today to carry that amount of oil, it would probably be built at 30 inches in diameter or less, compared to the 48-inch behemoth that snakes across central Alaska.
spoke to the Legislature's
House Resources committee at an informational session.
Now, temperature becomes a concern, McDevitt
"It's like your refrigerator; the longer time something is in there, the closer it gets to the temperature of the refrigerator," he
In the case of TAPS, the refrigerator can be the frigid Arctic winter.
That's a problem both during regular operations, when water or ice can drop out and collect at low points, promoting corrosion.
And in emergency shutdowns, standing water could freeze and might even prevent restart, McDevitt
Other concerns with a colder pipeline might include frost heaves where thawed soil refreezes and stresses the pipe.
"TAPS was designed as a warm oil pipeline," he
In the 660-mile pipeline, only about nine miles are at risk of frost heaves, however, McDevitt
Crude oil flowing through TAPS is relatively dry, averaging 0.35 percent water content, he