Governments consider renewal of trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline lease

Sep 26, 2001 02:00 AM

The trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline has been a looming image in the state's pristine wilderness for more than two decades, viewed as an engineering marvel by some and an eyesore by others. The future of the pipeline will be getting an even closer look over the next year as governments consider renewal of the 30-year lease for the land it crosses. The chief questions about the pipeline are its stability and how long it will be needed as oil reserves decrease.
Given the fact that the pipeline carries 17 % of the nation's oil production, no one doubts that the pipeline's license to operate will be renewed. But depending upon what the study finds, Alyeska Pipeline Service could find itself operating with new restrictions in operating the line. The lease could also be renewed for less than the 30 years Alyeska has requested.
The lease process will include a study of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the oil pipeline; its physical condition; and whether Alyeska has complied with regulations. "It's like peeling an onion," said Jerry Brossia, the top federal official with the Joint Pipeline Office, the state-federal agency that oversees pipeline operations.

As the lease renewal process gets under way, environmentalists have new concerns. There are fears that global warming could melt permafrost, causing instability in some of the 78,000 vertical pilings that support the 420 miles of aboveground pipe. A bigger question in the minds of critics is just how long the pipeline can last.
Alyeska says that with proper maintenance, monitoring and repair, the pipeline can last indefinitely.
The company spends about $ 150 mm a year on pipeline maintenance, Howitt said. Crews check the line each week by helicopter, and maintenance coordinators do a ground inspection once a month.

Source: Dow Jones via Energy24
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