| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our free eResource: Safety in Coatings Work.

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

US Orders Repairs on AK Pipeline

Monday, February 14, 2011

More items for Program/Project Management

Comment | More

Top of the World

Corrosion, inspection practices and other conditions on the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline are endangering the public and the environment, and pipeline owners must address them now, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has ordered.

PHMSA launched an investigation of the pipeline in the wake of a leak that began Jan. 8 at Pump Station 1 (PS-1). The pipeline was shut down for four days, leaking about 1.8 gallons of oil each minute into a containment area. The cause of the leak is assumed to be corrosion in the concrete-encased pipe, although the pipe has not yet been excavated.

On Feb. 1, in a Notice of Proposed Safety Order, the agency informed pipeline owner Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.: “As a result of the investigation, it appears that multiple conditions exist on your pipeline facility that pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property or the environment.”

The agency spelled out a list of corrective measures to be undertaken by Alyeska, a consortium of oil and gas companies led by BP.

Less Oil, More Corrosion

The 48-inch diameter pipeline carried about 2 million barrels per day (BPD) at its peak in 1988. At the end of 2010, however, it was averaging only 600,000 to 700,000 BPD.

That reduction “has resulted in numerous integrity challenges that have not been fully addressed” by Alyeska, PHMSA said.

Those issues include decreasing crude oil temperatures, water freezing due to the decreased temperatures, increased build-up of wax on the pipeline walls, slack line conditions at multiple locations, and changing oil composition.

Most damaging are a present pipeline specification that allows crude oil containing up to 0.35% Basic Sediment and Water to enter the system, which does not prevent free water and water slugs from entering the crude stream. During a cold-weather shutdown, water can accumulate in low points, freeze and create ice pugs. Ice crystals in the crude stream can damage equipment and instrumentation.

Also serious is the excessive wax buildup on the walls at lower crude temperatures, which contributes to a corrosion-conducive environment and interferes with smart pig inspections.

History of Corrosion, Wall Loss

The agency noted a history of “both internal and external corrosion problems on pipeline” upstream of PS-1 that has already led to replacement of several pipelines. In 2008, the agency noted, Alyeska identified several locations with internal corrosion, including two locations with more than 80% wall loss and three with more than 50% wall loss.

The agency also noted that Alyeska created a Cold Restart Plan in 2001 but had never used it until last month, when Alyeska was unable to implement the plan without disregarding certain regulatory requirements.

Corrective Measures

The agency proposed 13 corrective measures, including:

• A written plan for a third-party investigation of the leak site at PS-1. The investigation must include sampling of sediments, deposits and bacteria, and sections of pipe must be provided to PHMSA for its own analysis.

• Replacement of any piping in the system that cannot be assessed with smart pigs or other technology the agency approves.

• An assessment of the need for using additional pig launchers and receivers, assuming continued reduction in the pipeline throughput.

• A written plan and timeline for installing at least one additional permanent pig launcher and permanent pig receiver between PS-5 and PS-10.

• Revising the Cold Restart Plan, including lessons learned from the January shutdown.

• Evaluation of the need for increased tank capacity at pump stations to assist in collecting oil during prolonged outages and the implementation of a cold restart.

Company Response

Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan told the Associated Press that Alyeska had requested a meeting with PHMSA to discuss the order.

"There are several [items] that we disagree on, and there are also several items in there that we have already begun," Egan said.

She said the company was well aware of issues associated with fewer barrels of oil in the pipeline.

"We believe that the pipeline is safe and that there are challenges that are associated with such things as low throughput. It's a large, complex system that we manage within the risks," she told the AP.

Protective Coatings

Protective coatings are used throughout the pipeline project: in superstructures for the berths at the Valdez Marine Terminal, in the concrete-ballasted buried pipeline, and in the Valdez terminal storage tanks.

Corrosion prevention and control is a critical focus on pipeline operation and maintenance, Alyeska says.

Corrosion monitoring includes about 800 coupons along the 380 miles of buried pipeline and then-new equipment at PS-1 in 2007, Alyeska said.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, has said that the monitoring is insufficient.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Health and safety; Pipeline; Pipelines; Protective coatings

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Chicago Corrosion Group
Vendor-neutral corrosion consulting

What you don’t know about painting is costing you a fortune. Call today to see how CCG’s vendor-neutral, owner’s advocacy saves our clients millions.

SAFE Systems, Inc.
Portable Dust Collectors for Tough Environments

Trailer and skid-mounted models in numerous sizes, powered by electric and/or diesel. Sloped roofs, multiple dust inlets, high static, dampered fans. Lockable power & drive compartments.

SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings

Join SSPC and Enhance
Your Career !

Thermion Inc
Buy Back Program

We are offering $5,000
credit for your old Model
This drive system is
being discontinued by
the manufacturer.
More information at

U.S. Zinc
Products. Customized With U.S.

Our plant can produce multiple grades of zinc dust. In fact, we offer the most comprehensive product line in the industry, including special additive blends.

CS Unitec
Work Cleaner and Safer

CS Unitec’s Vibro-Lo low-vibration scalers offer high performance for greater productivity & improved operator comfort. Optional dust shroud.

Built for Tough Jobs

From Epoxies to Urethanes to other high solid coatings, the new Binks Airless 75 delivers a great finish using an ergonomic design. Visit for more information.

Termarust Technologies
Termarust (HR CSA) Chemically Stops
Active Corrosion

Truss bridge treated in 2000 with Termarust's (HR CSA) field-proven rust mitigation system chemically stopped corrosion, crevice corrosion & pack rust.

PPG Protective and Marine Coatings Group
Industrial strength performance in ONE can.

Now get the durability and protection of two components in one can: Amercoat® ONE, PSX® ONE and Sigmadur ONE.

Sidewinder/Persyst Enterprises, Inc.
The Sidewinder Model M2 Solvent Recycler

Combat the rising cost of gunwash, thinners, acetone & more while drastically reducing waste disposal coat.

Technology Publishing

The Technology Publishing Network

The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

© Copyright 2000-2015, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail