ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The trans-Alaska pipeline remained shut down Sunday as repair work continued to deal with a leak that was discovered last weekend. The 800-mile pipeline was shut down early Saturday morning to install a bypass pipe around the leak.
The shutdown was expected to last 36 hours, but the restart is currently expected to take place early Monday morning.
Workers are installing a 157-foot pipe to bypass the leak discovered more than a week ago at Pump Station 1 on the North Slope. Those working on the fix say sealing and draining the pipe is taking longer than expected.
“It's a complex project that we normally would spend many months planning and setting up, and so the fact that there's a slight delay in the project schedule is not necessarily a bad sign -- it's just the nature of working and adjusting under the conditions that we have,” said Alyeska spokesperson Michelle Egan.
But this latest shutdown has many, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, questioning the future of the pipeline.
“We have a pipeline that has been doing well by Alaska, doing well by our country -- but it is aging,” Murkowski said.
On Friday, Murkowski said she has asked for a top-to-bottom review of the pipeline.
“We need to ensure for (our) Alaska security, both from an environmental perspective and financial perspective, that all aspects of safety of that pipeline have been looked to,” Murkowski said.
In the meantime, Alyeska says this shutdown went smoothly. The bypass pipe may be in place for some time.
“We have a project to excavate this area and bring all of the piping above-ground,” Egan said. “The bypass will be in place until we can get that done, and that will be a bit of a longer-term project; the bypass is the good way to go in the interim.”
Alyeska hopes to have oil flowing again as soon as possible.
“There's over 500 people working round the clock on this, and they know how important it is to Alaska and they are working to get it done right,” Egan said.
Since the leak was in a contained area, Alyeska says there is no known impact on the environment.