Alaskan grit, determination and pride

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#mypipelinestory: “How I got the key to TAPS,” by Mike Jens

A few of the characters in attendance at the golden weld ceremony near PS 3 in May 31, 1977, were captured in this photo. They included, from left to right, Lon McDermott (AIC General Manager), Kay Eliason (Alyeska Senior Construction Manager), Frank Moolin (Alyeska Senior Project Manager), Peter Demay (Alyeska Vice President), Bernie Dorman (Associated-Green General Manager), and yours truly, Mike Jens (Alyeska Northern District Superintendent).

"A week or so before the golden weld ceremony, I got a call from Frank Moolin inviting me to attend. It was happening in the Northern District, near Pump Station 3, where I had recently been appointed superintendent after working with the construction team during the previous three years. Frank invited me with the understanding that other senior Pipeline Operations personnel would also be in attendance. I kidded Frank and said, in passing, 'Since this was the final weld, wasn't it time to turn over the keys to the pipeline to the top dogs in Operations, like Bill Dartch (President), Henry Mowell (Vice President), or my boss, Bob Halpert (Pipeline Superintendent).' I never gave it another thought and Frank didn’t say anything either."

"Ultimately, on the day of the event, I travelled from PS1 to the final weld site just north of PS3. When I arrived, I saw Frank walking around with a gold key that had been cut from a piece of the pipe. When Frank saw me, he asked where Dartch, Mowell and Halpert were. I told him I had invited them and they indicated they would attend, but apparently, they could not make it. As a result, Frank decided that the Northern District Superintendent, me, was going to be given the key to the pipeline because I was the most senior representative from Operations on the site. The end result is what you see in the photo."

"I was more than a little embarrassed to be the recipient of the key that was intended for others, but I was proud to have been a part of the team that helped build TAPS and was even more proud to be on the northern end of the pipeline during startup. The Northern District team, in 1977, had more than a few notable pipeliners, including my good friend Bill Howitt, who later became Senior Vice President and served Alyeska for many years until his recent retirement. The original photo and the golden key were donated to the Anchorage Museum and were part of the TAPS exhibit that existed there for many years."

"The epilogue to the story is that the senior Operations management team, having missed out on the golden weld ceremony, decided to host a 'platinum weld' ceremony in Valdez a few weeks later. The Operations group was not going to let those rough and tumble construction guys outdo them. The platinum weld ceremony was not widely attended and seems to have been lost in history, but the golden weld ceremony endures."

Mike Jens has more than 40 years of experience working on TAPS, beginning as an Alyeska Project Engineer during the construction era from late 1974 through the end of 1977. He worked out of Fairbanks and Glennallen before finishing up the construction effort as Assistant Project Manager reporting directly to Frank Moolin out of Galbraith Lake. In mid-1977, he was appointed to the position of Northern District Superintendent working out of PS 1 during oil-in and startup.

After Alyeska, he joined Frank Moolin and Associates, then was general manager of Anchorage's Management Analysis Company before ultimately becoming a partner in Hawk Consultants, LLC, where he current works. Management Analysis Company and Hawk Consultants have provided professional staffing services to Alyeska, and other oil companies, for the past 35 years.

#mypipelinestory: Senator Dan Sullivan's TAPS video salute

On June 20, the 40th anniversary of TAPS startup, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan offered a very cool video tribute to TAPS and Alaska’s pipeline people on his Facebook page. He also wrote, "Forty years ago today, Alaska’s steel artery – the Trans Alaska Pipeline System – pumped its first barrel of oil, and 17 billion more have followed since. It is impossible to overstate the importance of TAPS to Alaska: supporting our schools and public services, building a strong economy, and bringing countless opportunities to Alaskans. Looking forward to many more years of a full and functional pipeline. Happy Birthday, TAPS!"

#TAPSPride: PS1 celebrates 40th anniversary

The crew at Pump Station 1 showed their #TAPSPride and celebratory side when they commemorated the 40th anniversary of TAPS operations on June 20. Photo by Alyeska's Erin Orchard. #40More

Alyeska Community Connection: KVAK, Valdez

TAPS Snacks: Bear Tooth Pipeline Pretzel Sticks

It wouldn't be a birthday party without some awesome snacks! Thanks Bear Tooth Theatrepub for celebrating 40 years of TAPS operations with your super-special, super-delicious Pipeline Pretzel Sticks (basted in Broken Tooth Brewing Pipeline Stout) and their luscious side: Prince William Porter cheese sauce. #Nomnomnom #TAPS40

TAPS at 40 in the news: Roundup

With TAPS celebrating its 40th anniversary of operations on June 20, there has been a lot of statewide and national media coverage of the milestone, as well as the pipeline's past, present and future. Here are a few stories and reports that have popped up in recent days ...

The Center for Strategic & International studies produced an overview of TAPS history and facts, followed by its current production and outlook for the future, especially in light of the recent secretarial order that calls for investigating production opportunities in areas that have previously been off limits (NPRA, ANWR). Here's the Facebook story post, as well.


Anchorage-based KTVA Channel 11 ran a wide-ranging series on TAPS at 40. The reports included stories about:
Training the next generation of TAPS workers, June 23
The women who built the Trans-Alaska pipeline, June 22
* Alyeska Pipeline is trying to engineer their way out of low oil flow in TAPS, June 21
* TAPS faces new challenges on its 40th anniversary, June 20


TAPS runs through Fairbanks and plays many important roles in the community. Naturally, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has been all over the TAPS 40th reporting.
* It covered our big community event in Fox on the day of the anniversary, June 21
* It wrote an op-ed on TAPS impact on the day of the anniversary, June 20
* It picked up Alyeska President Tom Barrett's commentary on TAPS history, June 18
* And it kicked off a new commentary and photo series, June 25


Midnight Oil, a podcast with complmentary video and profile pieces produced by Alaska Public Media's Alaska's Energy Desk, launched with its first episode on June 20, but it's already caught the attention of NPR's national desk and national listeners. Here's NPR's Sunday Edition recast of the first Midnight Oil report.


Stay tuned for more news!

Pipeline Partners: GCI

TAPS at 40 in the news: Alyeska President Tom Barrett offers commentary

Earlier this month, Alyeska President Tom Barrett shared a message about TAPS at 40 with Alyeska staff, TAPS contractors and partners, and Alaska media. His commentary is below and has been shared in the Alaska Journal of Commerce and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. His full message is below.

On June 20, the Trans Alaska Pipeline System reaches a significant milestone: 40 years of operations. TAPS stands as one of the world’s engineering marvels and among Alaska’s most popular landmarks. It’s a symbol of sustained operational excellence, environmental stewardship, community and business partnerships, innovation, integrity, and people who embody Alaska true grit.

TAPS remains at the heart of Alaska’s economic health; throughput from North Slope producers since TAPS startup now exceeds 17.5 billion barrels, and has generated $168 billion in cumulative deposits to the State's General Fund. Oil flow down TAPS helps fuel Alaska government and businesses, communities, schools and nonprofit organizations, and creates jobs and opportunities for thousands of Alaskans.

From the onset, TAPS' architects pondered daunting obstacles: Constructing an 800-mile pipeline across some of the world's most challenging, unforgiving, and unique wilderness. Navigating a path to approval lined with mammoth political, environmental and logistical hurdles. Even as America starved for domestic energy resources, many doubted that this bold, one-of-a-kind pipeline would even be built. Some fiercely opposed it.

But the TAPS owner companies and many Alaska leaders saw the potential transformative value of TAPS for Alaska and Alaskans. They advocated, negotiated, fought and gained approval for TAPS construction.

Then 70,000 men and women raced north to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime project. In October 1975, the workforce peaked at more than 28,000 – they built TAPS and the Dalton Highway, transformed Prudhoe Bay into an energy and economic hub, and created a major marine terminal in Valdez, turning it into one of Alaska's leading ports. The mantra was, "They didn’t know it couldn't be done." They got it done – in just over three years.

Early predictions suggested TAPS wouldn't reach 20 years of operation, much less 40. But employees' dedication, system modernization, North Slope production that exceeded expectations, and ongoing application of lessons learned have sustained TAPS, as has what we at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the pipeline operator, call TAPS Pride. It's a sense of ownership held by those connected to the pipeline – Alyeska employees, contractors, family, friends and tens of thousands of people who have contributed to the TAPS legacy.

Upon seeing TAPS, visitors are awed. More than half of the pipeline runs above ground. That engineering decision, due to seismic and permafrost issues, coupled with spectacular Alaska backdrops, make TAPS one of the world's most photographed pipelines.

It is fascinating to talk to visitors at the TAPS viewing site in Fox, or to read social media posts about personal TAPS experiences. The most interesting tales come from TAPS workers. A quarter of the current Alyeska workforce of around 800 has been with the company for more than 20 years; some were here at startup. Several family members are third generation employees. More than 90 percent of the diverse Alyeska workforce lives in Alaska; more than 20 percent are Alaska Native; and 70 percent of TAPS contractor companies are based in Alaska. Those Alaska roots are a foundation of TAPS pride and operational excellence.

The pride extends to the communities where our personnel live and work. From 1978-2016, Alyeska purchased more than $25 billion in goods and services and paid $32 million in non-property taxes and fees, in addition to taxes paid by the TAPS owners. Over that same time, the company contributed $41 million in charitable contributions and $7 million in scholarships. Since 2001, Alyeska staff personally donated more than $1 million and more than 24,000 volunteer hours.

Like any 40-year run, there have been performance highs and lows. Throughput numbers have certainly swung. At peak flow in 1988, 11 pump stations helped move 2.1 million barrels of oil a day; daily averages dropped just about every year since. In 2016, oil throughput, now moved by only four pump stations, was 517,868 barrels a day. It marked the first year of a throughput increase since 2002, and 2017 numbers so far are running above 2016.

Those upticks feed our 40th year of operations with fresh enthusiasm and optimism. More oil through TAPS is the path to smoother, more reliable and efficient operations, and more long-term benefits for Alaskans. Recent reports of discoveries and increased production on the North Slope is great news.

While there has been a lot of change on TAPS over 40 years, one unwavering constant remains: the commitment of the people who work on TAPS today to provide safe, reliable, operational excellence, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, resilient amid all of Alaska's extreme geography and weather.

This should give us all – Alyeska personnel, TAPS contractors, Alaskans, the nation – a vision of another potential TAPS milestone: 40 more years of successful operations across Alaska.

Admiral Tom Barrett, U.S. Coast Guard (ret.), has been president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. since 2011. Read stories or share your own at Alyeska’s 40th anniversary website:

#mypipelinestory: Senator Lisa Murkowski shares TAPS history on Senate floor

On June 20, the 40th anniversary of TAPS startup, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski celebrated the landmark by sharing TAPS history, its impact on Alaska and our nation, and even her own personal connection to TAPS with her colleagues on the Senate floor in Washington, D.C.

Pipeline Partners: Carlile Transportation

It was two brothers starting with two tractors. But the tireless work of John and Harry MacDonald and those tractors grew Carlile Transportation into one of Alaska's top transportation companies and a pivotal partner with Alyeska since 1980.

From those humble beginnings, Carlile now works with Alyeska and dozens of other companies across Alaska and beyond, has acquired other transportation companies, has a strong presence on the North Slope and along TAPS, and is recognized for its reliability and safety culture. 

"We ship millions of pounds of materials across TAPS every year to support operations and projects – having a key partner like Carlile Transportation allows Alyeska to strive for flawless operations year over year," said Alyeska Supply Chain Management Director Dan Flodin. "Carlile Transportation always steps up to the challenges and helps us solve problems together."
Tom Hendrix Jr., Carlile's Vice President of Oil and Gas, recently shared Carlile's history and some memories of the longtime partnership with Alyeska. 

Can you illustrate the impact that TAPS has had on Alaska? 
"TAPS has changed Alaska. It opened up the door for an oil industry that provides good-paying jobs for Alaskans. From the fabrication shops, transportation industry and retail support of the community, TAPS touches every Alaskan regardless of where they work or live in the state. Oil production has provided improvement on our schools, from kindergarten to post-secondary programs. TAPS has made Alaska a better place to live while demonstrating environmental excellence and stewardship. Carlile salutes Alyeska, its employees and contractors on this monumental anniversary. Together, we got it right."

What has the success of TAPS meant to your company? 
"That success has provided the employees of Carlile the opportunity to work, live and raise their families in Fairbanks. I am a second generation Fairbanks guy, and my father went to the UAF School of Engineering and Mines and later worked on TAPS, so the success of TAPS has positively benefited my family. Through our partnership and collaboration, Alyeska has helped our company become a safety leader in our industry. Carlile benefited from the stable and predictable employment opportunities, and when I think about it, we grew up with Alyeska and would not have the Fairbanks base of Line Haul Operations without the opportunities through TAPS."

Please tell us a little bit about the services Carlile provides to Alyeska/TAPS. 
"Carlile Transportation provides line-wide services including: peddle runs, heavy haul construction support and fuel services up and down TAPS. Over the past few decades we have transitioned into providing heavy haul support for the movement of equipment and oversized loads both north and south of Fairbanks. In the early 2000s, we helped Alyeska eliminate the need for operating their own fleet of equipment and have covered most of the required needs for line-wide movement. We have also partnered with Alaska West Express to provide Alyeska with an all Alaska solution for the movement of any equipment, materials and modules to support construction efforts."

"While we started out as a small operation, we have grown over the decades. In 1994 we purchased K&W Transportation to take over the line-wide fuel movement for TAPS. Shortly after that, we purchased the assets and land that Alaska Pacific Leasing had for support on the Drag Reduction Agent railcar offloading and final mile delivery to Alyeska."

You mentioned that working with TAPS has helped Carlile become a safety leader in the transportation industry. Please expand on that.
"Alyeska has been a business partner that has helped us become the company that we are today, with safety on the forefront of our business. As we grew, Alyeska would afford us additional opportunities as we were ready for them. Both of our operations have been through the economic downturns and we both have kept the safety of our employees as the focus of our business regardless of the economy."

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