Alaskan pipeline problems grow

alyeska_pump_station_3
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s Pump Station #3 was one of several facilities that saw significant upgrades along the Trans-Alaska pipeline in recent years. Now it appears there may be a need for even more work. ( Kevin Fujii / Chronicle )

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline recently wrapped-up a multimillion-dollar upgrade project to help it handle the coming decades where lower oil volumes are expected. Despite all the work, however, it seems the problems for the 800-mile oil pipe continue to mount, according to the Anchorage Daily News:

In the 1980s, at peak oil flows, a barrel of oil made the trip from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez in four days.
Now it takes 13 days.
The slower flow causes the temperature of the hot oil to cool faster. At some point, the oil temperature will dip below the freezing point of water along certain segments, unless Alyeska reheats the oil inside the pipe.
As it gets colder, ice and wax may coat the insides of the pipeline. The colder oil might also increase the risk of buried segments of the pipeline jacking up in the ground, company officials said.
The problems have been building for decades and will only become more pressing as oil production declines further.
For example, Alyeska, owned by BP, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil and two smaller companies, used to launch devices to scrape wax — a component of the oil — out of the pipe’s interior every several weeks.
Now it’s every four to seven days.

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