Skip to comments.Alyeska: Less water could extend the life of pipeline
Posted on 04/01/2013 5:21:00 AM PDT by thackney
After focusing for years on adding heat to the chilly contents of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, officials are planning to study a new approach to boosting line performance decreasing the amount of water inside.
With North Slope oil production in a 25-year-long decline, the pipeline is becoming more vulnerable to problems as the flow of crude decreases. A barrel of oil took just four days to travel the length of the 800-mile line in 1988, but now takes 18 days. Because of the slower flow rate, the temperature of oil can sometimes dip down to 32 degrees during its journey to Valdez.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company President Tom Barrett said engineers are about to study cutting the water content of the crude in the pipeline. The evaluation is expected to take at least 18 months but is seen as a promising solution for extending the pipelines life.
We think this might be a really good idea, might help us through some of the declining flow issues, said Barrett, speaking during a News-Miner editorial board meeting Wednesday.
The oil in the pipeline includes 0.22 percent water, Barrett said. At low temperatures, that water content results in ice or slushy oil and is believed to cause a disproportionate amount of the corrosion in the pipeline.
By cutting that water content in half or more, Alyeska engineers believe they could significantly reduce damage.
Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan said studies will begin this summer to simulate pipeline operations at various water-content levels. Engineers also will study the added North Slope infrastructure that would be needed to separate more water from the crude before it enters the pipeline.
Alyeska is moving ahead with plans to add new heat to the pipeline as well. Several pump stations already recirculate crude along the pipeline route, with a goal of increasing the flow rate. Pump Station 5 is being engineered to deliver additional heated oil to the line within two years.
But adding more heat along the pipeline route brings its own problems. Although it keeps the oil flowing, it has unexpectedly resulted in more waxy build-up along the way. Although Alyeska believes it can operate safely at a rate of about 300,000 barrels of oil per day about half the current rate it will need to find new approaches to maintain that flow, Egan said.
What were learning now is that heat isnt the only solution, she said.
Alyeska is in the process of evaluating the pipeline with a smart pig an insert that travels inside the line while taking corrosion readings.
The pig, which was launched March 15, uses new technology to deliver an MRI-like image of the pipe. Barrett said itll take about a month to evaluate the effectiveness of the device, but Alyeska officials believe it could provide the best view theyve had of pipeline health.
It should give us, if were successful, a much-enhanced picture of the pipe, Barrett said.
The usefulness of this long pipeline is decreasing with age. With the boom in energy production on private land in the Lower 48, it will not be missed, except in AK, where it has provided immense revenue.
I doubt this line will be shut down 30 years from now.
Most of the active pump stations were replaced a few years ago.
Thats allot of water they reject us at anything over .10%.
I thought it was high as well.
The first article I read (not this one) left out the zero showing .22%
And I missed reading the “.”
I thought WHAT!!!
How about you DRILL IN ANWAR and send more oil down the pipeline?
I meant what did we buy Alaska for? To look at it because it is so pretty and ‘pristine’?
It is ANWR, not ANWAR.
Anwar is this guy:
ANWR is this place:
More info at: http://www.anwr.org
hee hee... yes, you are right
but :P anyway
They are going to drill the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea rather than ANWR. There is more oil in the Chukchi Sea than ther was/is in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, Shell had to send their drill ships back to Korea for repair after their first season in the Chukchi so they won't return until the 2014 drilling season.
Keep in mind, in ANWR Alaska gets 90% of the royalty and the feds get only 10%. Offshore(beyond 3 miles) the feds get 100% of the royalty. Unless Murkowski can somehow get "royalty sharing" implemented in Alaska. TX, LA, MS and AL were given royalty sharing in 2006 and Virginia's willingness to allow offshore drilling there is predicated on royalty sharing for Virginia.