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Alaska Beat

An open letter to the trans-Alaska pipeline

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published June 20, 2012

Dear trans-Alaska pipeline,

Happy Birthday! In honor of your 35th year and your many contributions to our great state here is a list of need-to-know facts and historical highlights.

  • You, trans-Alaska pipeline system, have a lovely acronym: TAPS. You, TAPS, extend all the way from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska, roughly 800 miles. You have 11 pump stations and it takes crude oil about 16 days to get from one end to the other.
  • It took engineers some 3 years to complete your construction and the first oil pumped from your Pump Station 1 was on June 20, 1977. Since those early days over 16.5 billion barrels of oil have traveled through your belly.
  • Although you're still looking good, you peaked in 1988 with a production rate of 2.1 million barrels per day, while in 2011 you averaged 590,000 barrels per day. But no worries, your oil currently accounts for 11 percent of the U.S. domestic supply.
  • You have been the subject of much controversy, hatred and, on occasion, sabotage. In February 1978, an unknown person (or persons) punctured a bit of your track just outside of Fairbanks. That one inch hole led to the largest oil seepage, involving you, in state history. Some 16,000 barrels of crude were lost before a shutdown was successful.
  • And who can forget the drunk guy who shot you back in 2001? He keeps popping back up in the news or, at least, the photos of your trauma do.
  • Lastly, although you were designed to be fire proof, earthquake resistant and tolerant of other natural disasters, the 2002 Denali earthquake did do some damage, albeit just a little.
  • You've done good TAPS. You've had a long and complex life full of crazy stories and strange bends, but in the end you keep on keepin' on. Here's to another 35 years or longer.

    All the best,

    Alaska Dispatch

    If you'd like more on our old friend click here or check out TAPS' Twitter account here.

    Correction: This story originally reported that it takes crude 38 days to run the entire length of the pipeline. During the pipelien's first run, in 1977, it did take 38 days. However, as of 2011, it only takes 16 days from one end to the other. We regret the error.

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