Trans Alaskan Pipeline Shuts Down After Spill

The Trans Alaskan Pipeline (TAPS), which accounts for 12 percent of U.S. oil production, was shut down Saturday due to a minor oil leak.

Pipeline operator Alyeska plans to bypass the leaking section of the 800-mile line by installing a stand-in expanse of pipe.


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said Alyeska would not need its approval to repair and restart the pipeline.

TAPS was shut down after a small amount of oil seeped into the basement of a booster pump station. About 750 gallons had been collected from the spill as of Tuesday morning.

The incident edged up worldwide oil prices Tuesday, with benchmark light crude for February delivery gaining 2 percent to $91.03 per barrel in the U.S.

Officials expect a quick restart time, especially since they don’t need DOT’s regulatory approval.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman Katie Pesznecker told The Associated Press that there is a device known as a cleaning pig inside the pipeline.

She said that ice and wax is building in the line while it’s shut down. The pipeline operator is concerned that during a permanent restart when the oil begins moving again, the cleaning pig will push the ice and wax into the equipment and damage it.

Alyeska hopes to temporarily restart the flow of oil to keep the pipe warm and move the pig to an area where it could be sidelined and captured.


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