The Trans Alaska Pipeline System transports crude oil from Alaska’s North Slope, across 800 miles of varied Alaskan terrain to Valdez, North America’s northernmost ice-free port. The pipeline traverses three mountain ranges, three major earthquake faults and hundreds of rivers and streams.
TAPS operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Employees work in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Valdez, and along the pipeline, from Pump Station 1 on the North Slope to oil spill prevention and response vessels in Prince William Sound. Throughput in 2011 averaged about 600,000 barrels a day, with four pump stations along the line staffed and operating. Tankers that load at the terminal in Valdez deliver about eight percent of the nation's crude oil supply to market.
Alyeska is focused on safe and flawless operations and sustainability, and today is working to respond to challenges posed by declining throughput. Throughput peaked at 2.1 million barrels a day in 1988. It has only steadily decreased since. With the lower flow levels, the crude oil takes longer to reach the Valdez Terminal – about 2 weeks, on average – and the oil is colder on arrival. This affects operations all along TAPS, from pump stations where oil is recirculated to add heat, to Valdez where pigs arrive with more accumulated wax. Alyeska is continuing to research and implement adjustments necessary to operate TAPS safely and efficiently so that TAPS will remain a viable component of Alaska's economy and the nation's energy infrastructure.