Pipeline History / Design / Construction
"They didn’t know it couldn’t be done." This was the motto adopted by Alyeska’s first employees – tens of thousands of men and women who teamed up to tackle the world’s largest privately funded construction project.
Designing and building the Trans Alaska Pipeline System presented unprecedented challenges. The 800-mile-long steel pipe would cross mountain ranges, rivers and major earthquake fault lines. Alaska’s semi-frozen permafrost prompted the engineering decision to build more than half the line above ground. Teams lived in construction camps along the line. The largest field camp at Isabel Pass had more than 1,600 beds. The smallest, Sourdough, could hold 125 workers. In all, more than 70,000 individuals worked on TAPS’ construction.
Considering the project’s scope and Alaska’s harsh conditions, crews worked at an astonishing pace: Construction on roads, facilities and the pipeline began in April 1974 and finished in June 1977. Oil flowed on June 20, 1977, and the first tanker carrying Alaska North Slope crude oil pulled away from its berth at the Valdez Marine Terminal on August 1, 1977. The final price tag on TAPS’ construction: a staggering $8 billion.