Massive reconstruction project under way at pipeline terminal

Posted: Friday, August 17, 2001

VALDEZ (AP) -- A massive reconstruction effort is under way at the trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal in Valdez.

More than 1,000 workers are laboring this summer on the overhaul, which was sparked by the aging of the North Slope oilfields as well as cooling crude. The work began last year and is expected to continue for another two years, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. officials said.

The effort is estimated to cost about $380 million.

Next summer may bring an even more intense work schedule, officials said.

''This is the busiest construction season we've had since the terminal construction itself,'' said Alyeska spokesman Tim Woolston.

There are four areas of major construction. The floor grid system will be cleaned and refitted within the holding tanks at the tank farm overlooking the Valdez Arm. The fire water pipe line will be relined. Berth 5 will be rebuilt and rewired. And a new office facility will be built.

Each storage tank is 250 feet in diameter covering a total of one acre. The roof of each tank has to be cleared of snow by hand in order not to chance a spark.

The heat from crude oil had been the source of getting rid of snowfall from tank tops, said Alyeska Operations Adviser Tom Stokes. But with the oil fields of the North Slope becoming more marginal, crude oil temperatures are now around 60 degrees coming into the tank farm. The cooler crude temperatures have led to maintenance problems in the tanks themselves.

''With the crude getting colder, a lot of wax is dropping out,'' Stokes told the Valdez Vanguard. ''If you leave it, it starts collecting in the piping and such becoming a hazardous waste.

Wax build up has not only been clogging pipes, but compromising the fire system. Steel floors and the bottom grid have to be cleaned out and the wax scraped off as well as painted.

''The key is to keep the wax suspended in the crude where it can't settle,'' Stokes said.

The cooler crude also has caused damage to the top of the storage tanks from the heavy snowfalls in the region and crushed equipment such as mixer motors from accumulated snow falling from the top of the tanks. One of next year's projects is to build shelters over the mixer motors of the tanks.

Most of this summer's work has focused on tank No. 5. Other tanks for oil and ballast water will be the focus next year, Stokes said.

Work also is being done on the fire system pipeline, which stretches eight miles from its water intake along the shoreline and around the terminal complex. The diameter of the fire pipeline ranges from six inches to 30.

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