Pump station fire shuts down trans-Alaska pipeline for 9 hours

The trans-Alaska oil pipeline was restarted late Wednesday after a nine-hour shutdown prompted by a fire at a pump station near Coldfoot, according to a spokeswoman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

An employee at Pump Station 5, near the Dalton Highway along the 800-mile pipeline, saw flames coming from a pressure vacuum vent on a tank at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The 58 workers quickly evacuated the station, which relieves pressure that builds up in the pipeline as the oil descends Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range, said spokeswoman Michelle Egan.

There were no injuries and no environmental contamination, the company said.

Alyeska control operators in Anchorage isolated the tank and the station, and the fire was contained in the tank, Egan said. The pipeline was shut down at 2:38 and restarted at about 11:30 p.m.

All of the pipeline pump stations were shut off, and everything was in "a static state" as the company worked to resolve the situation, Egan said.

Alyeska said late Wednesday it planned to operate the pipeline at a reduced flow rate of 400,000 to 420,000 barrels per day until early Thursday, when personnel would be in position to monitor valves as oil flow is returned to the normal rate of more than 500,000 barrels.

The pipeline moves the crude oil that is the heart of the state's economy after it's pumped from North Slope oil fields. About 540,000 barrels of oil were produced in the region Tuesday.

Alyeska operates the pipeline on behalf of its owners, primarily BP, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.