Trans-Alaska oil pipeline undergoing summer maintenance

Kristen Nelson

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. began its summer maintenance work with shutdowns in May and June, with more shutdowns tentatively scheduled for late July and early August.

The major North Slope operators, BP Exploration (Alaska) and Conoco Phillips Alaska, also have maintenance scheduled: five major projects for BP and two for Conoco Phillips.

Major planned maintenance began for Conoco Phillips in mid-June at Kuparuk. Conoco Phillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said the main work at the Kuparuk River field would be at Central Processing Facility 2, where the company "will test safety systems, make upgrades to instrumentation and electrical systems and perform internal pressure vessel inspections and repairs as necessary." Lowman said the work was scheduled to begin in mid-June and last some 50 days.

The annual turnaround at Alpine will begin in late July, she said, and last about 20 days. Work there "will include smart pigging of production lines, inspection of processing vessels and turbines, and repairs and replacement as needed to the facility's equipment."

BP Exploration (Alaska) spokeswoman Dawn Patience said BP has done some planned maintenance around earlier shutdowns, but that most of the work the company has planned will begin in July. For a six- to eight-week period, she said, the workforce will grow from about 2,500 to about 3,400 to handle the turnaround.

BP has a concentrated effort planned at the Prudhoe Bay field, she said, with work at the Central Compression Plant, Flow Station 1 and Gathering Center 1. Work is also planned at the Milne Point and Northstar fields.

Work includes scheduled maintenance on gas compressor turbines, regulatory safety inspections, heavy maintenance operations, inspections and repairs to safety systems at facility.

Patience said the turnaround work was focused on facility maintenance, safety systems and other improvements. She said BP typically plans summer maintenance to take advantage of other facility shutdowns and pipeline shutdowns and the milder Arctic summer climate. Facility shutdowns allow workers to work safely around flares, pipes and other equipment, she said.

Alyeska has tentatively scheduled shutdowns for pipe installation at Pump Station 6 for July 28 and Aug. 5.

Pipeline shutdowns in May do not appear to have had major effects on throughput, but there was a noticeable drop around the June 2 shutdown, with North Slope production dropping from an average of 570,770 barrels per day in May to less than 480,000 bpd June 1 and to less than 381,000 bpd on June 2 before climbing back above 486,000 bpd on June 3.

Petroleum News