The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System pumped its first oil from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez on June 20, 1977 -- making Wednesday the 20th anniversary of the project's startup.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which maintains the pipeline, says that since TAPS became operational, more than 16.5 billion barrels of oil have flowed through it. The peak was in 1988 with 2.1 billion barrels of oil, but its average in 2011 was about 590,000 barrels per day. Alyeska says that 11 percent of the U.S. domestic oil supply comes through the pipe.
State economist Neal Fried says about a third of all jobs in Alaska are tied to the oil industry.
“If you look at the value of oil, what it does in our economy, there is not much else that measures up to it,” Fried said.
Alyeska president Tom Barrett says with less oil in the line there are increased risks, including fears that buildups of ice outside the pipeline or wax inside it could hurt operations. This year, he says the pipeline had to be heated to keep oil flowing.
“That is difficult, dangerous work we didn’t have to do before,” Barrett said.
Still, Barrett says employees enjoy their work and are excited about Wednesday’s milestone.
“This is a good day for us, a good day for Alaska.” Barrett said.
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