The Trans-Alaska pipeline will shut down from today for 36 hours of scheduled summer maintenance.
Meantime, pipeline operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. is assessing the best way to fix a ‘weeping joint’ discovered along an underground section of the line.
The ‘weep’ at a pump station between Delta Junction and Glennallen – with crude leaking a rate of 1 teaspoon each day – is contained and under constant monitoring, said Michelle Egan, Corporate Communications Director for Alyeska.
It's falling into a drip pan when an employee isn't wiping off accumulated oil with a rag, she said.
The leak will be fixed after the shutdown, she said. Maintenance conducted during a shutdown involves multiple organisations and projects, with planning taking place over several months, she said.
“It’s more prudent for us to go through the work we have planned,” she said.
"There’s no reason this has to be addressed in this shutdown."
The leak appears to have been caused by possibly degraded material that separates the steel pipe from a steel fitting. More investigation will determine the cause, said Egan.
“We have been working on engineering the solution, and we’re looking at a few different options,” said Egan, including installing a sleeve to stop the leak.
The leak is not related to corrosion of the pipe, she said.
Twenty-one other sections of the pipe with similar material might also be inspected, depending what caused the failure in the ‘weeping’ section.
As for Friday’s shutdown, crews will conduct work that includes testing valves along line to make sure they seal properly. Another focus will be replacing pig launcher valves at Pump Station 1 at Prudhoe Bay, the start of the line, that are associated with the pig devices that clean the pipe or test it for corrosion.
Other scheduled summer maintenance will include “a short-duration shutdown” of six to eight hours and another, longer shutdown 21 – 22 August.
Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner
Sources: Alaska Dispatch News, Alaska Public Media