Security tightened on trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The company that operates the trans-Alaska oil pipeline said security was heightened Tuesday in the wake of coordinated terrorist attacks on the East Coast, but was tight-lipped about how it was protecting the 800-mile line.

''Obviously there's more security because of the pipeline's importance in terms of energy,'' said Tim Woolston, spokesman for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Woolston said the pipeline was not shut down and oil was continuing to flow. There were no immediate plans to shut down the line, he said. The tanker terminal was operating with a skeleton crew and all nonessential employees were sent home.

Just before noon, the Coast Guard ordered Port Valdez shut down, halting crude oil loading. The oil coming down the pipeline was being kept in storage tanks, Woolston said.

''We believe we have up to three days storage capacity,'' he said. Alyeska is a consortium owned by BP, Exxon, Phillips Petroleum and Unocal.

No crude oil loading was taking place at the time the Coast Guard order came down. The tanker Seariver Benicia had loaded and left Valdez harbor Tuesday morning.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Brad Wilson of Juneau said he was not sure when the oil terminal would again open.

''We're assessing security concerns,'' Wilson said.

The pipeline carries more than a million barrels of oil per day and provides 17 percent of the nation's oil.

The line travels from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields to Valdez, much of it passing through remote wilderness. About 420 miles of the pipeline are above ground. The rest is buried.

Pipeline officials say the line can be shut down within minutes if necessary, with a series of check valves to limit oil spills.

The pipeline has been a target in the past.

A Canadian man was charged two years ago with plotting to blow up the pipeline as part of an effort to drive up oil prices and reap a profit. Alfred Reumayr was arrested in Canada in August 1999 after an 18-month investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

U.S. and Canadian officials said at that time that the plot was not political or ideolgical. They were reluctant to release details at that time for fear it would encourage copycat acts.

An act of sabotage on the pipeline in 1978 resulted in a spill of 16 thousand barrels of oil. A hole was blasted in the line with explosives at Steele Creek, near Fairbanks. No one was ever arrested in connection with that attack.

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