Upgrade to pipeline ongoing

Posted: Monday, November 16, 2009

FAIRBANKS - The upgrade to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is continuing with the reconfiguration expected to take a few more years to complete.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. manager John Baldridge said Alyeska has been replacing its manned pumps with automated ones at its four pump stations. The final piece, Pump Station 1, will be updated in two to three years.

The switch is in response to declining oil production on the North Slope. The automated pumps can propel smaller amounts of oil, produce more data and be controlled and monitored from Anchorage.

The project was initially estimated to cost $250 million but now is expected to cost more than $400 million, Baldridge said.

When the project is completed, the automated pumps will replace 64 onsite workers and retain 90 maintenance technicians.

The system was installed at Pump Station 9 in Delta Junction in February 2007. Pump Station 4 was updated in late 2007. Pump Station 3 switched earlier this year and Pump Station 1 is in the engineering phase.

All three are north of the Brooks Range and must push oil over Atigun Pass, the highest point of elevation on the pipeline's 800-mile route.

Baldridge estimated that the pipeline will be transporting 700,000 barrels per day by the end of 2009 and expects to see a 5 to 6 percent annual drop if major oil fields aren't discovered. At its peak in 1989, 2.1 million barrels per day flowed through the pipeline, propelled by 28 pumps at 10 stations.

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