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Alaska Pipeline Photos

Alaska Pipeline at sunset

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Alaska Pipeline Photos

Alaska has many resources and industry that provide revenue for the state, but most significant and sometimes controversial is oil. Without the Alaska Pipeline, the oil industry would be crippled and the pipeline represents a major engineering achievement. At Alaska Stock Images, you will find a wide variety of Alaska photos including Alaska Pipeline Photos. To find more pictures of Alaska and its pipeline, visit our search page.

Wildlife and Pipeline photos
Moose near pipeline
Construction on the Alyeska Trans-Alaska Pipeline on March 27, 1975. In just a little over two years later, the pipeline was completed and the first barrel of oil arrived in Valdez on June 20, 1977. However, it took about six years of "pre-construction" study and analysis including 3,500 bore holes and 15,000 soil samples.
Valdez pipeline terminal
Valdez pipeline terminal

The pipeline is about 800 miles in length and stretches, twists, and turns from the North Slope of Alaska to the southern port of Valdez. The pipeline crosses three mountain ranges (Brooks Range, Alaska Range, Chugach Range) and crosses over 800 rivers.

The total cost for the pipeline was approximately 8 billion dollars...that's about 100 million dollars per mile! It took 515 Federal permits and 832 State permits to begin construction. The materials needed for the pipeline itself weighed close to 3 million tons total and the gravel needed for the project was 73 million cubic yards. There are approximately 42,000 welded joints. The diameter of the pipeline is 48 inches and the entire “line fill” capacity is over 9 million barrels. The pipeline has moved approximately 14 billion barrels of oil through since its construction.
Haul Road & Brooks Range
Truck near pipeline, Brooks Range

Seven temporary airfields of at least 2,500 feet were constructed and seven of at least 5,000 feet were built. Two of the 5,000 feet airstrips continue to be used. Twenty-nine construction camps were built that held approximately 5,000 workers at any given time.

The total amount of employees during the entire time of construction was close to 70,000. At the peak time of construction (October 1975), approximately 28,072 employees were working directly for Alyeska or contractors. Thirty-one people lost their lives directly related to construction of the pipeline.

Construction on the pipeline
Repair on Alaska pipeline
The pipeline is classified into three types of "Design Mode" construction: "above ground," "conventional below ground," and "refrigerated below ground." The "above ground" construction is a total of 420 miles and is designed to have vertical supports that contain 2-inch “heat pipes” filled with anhydrous ammonia. This ammonia vaporizes below ground; the vapor rises, condenses above ground, and removes ground heat whenever the ground temperature exceeds the temperature of the air. Heat is transferred through the walls of the heat pipes to aluminum radiators atop the pipes. "Conventional below ground" construction is simply explained as pipe laid in a ditch and covers 376 miles of the total pipeline. However, additional precautions were engineered to avoid damage such as laying Zinc ribbons along the pipeline before burying which inhibit corrosion. Finally, in some areas where the pipeline had to be buried for road crossings, animal crossings, or protection against avalanches, “refrigerated below ground” construction was utilized. The pipe was buried and is refrigerated by circulating chilled brine through loops of 6-inch diameter pipe to maintain the soil in a stable frozen condition. A mere 4 miles of the pipeline is refrigerated below ground.
Zig-zag pattern of pipeline
Zig-zag formation of pipeline
Because metal contracts and expands with temperature (the external temperature as well as the temperature of the oil passing through), a solution had to be created for allowing this expansion and contraction. Therefore, the pipeline is built in a "zig-zag" formation, so that as the temperature changes, the pipeline moves laterally on supports rather than lengthwise. The approximate distance any given section of 720 ft. pipe moves is 9 inches. Similar precautions have been built in where earthquake probability is high.

As impressive as all the numbers, facts, and figures are, the controversy over the oil pipeline and drilling for oil remains. Alaska is the "Last Frontier" and many wildlife and nature organizations maintain that the land should be preserved for future generations and that the oil industry can only lead to the overall demise of the pristine wilderness. Of course the oil companies and many Alaskans feel that oil exploration and drilling can be (and continues to be) done responsibly. Additionally, with the current shortages of oil from Middle Eastern countries, the battle over the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve continues. To read more on the two arguments, visit these sites:

Books of Interest:

Amazing Pipeline Stories: How Building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Transformed Life in America's Last Frontier - While many would agree that the Cole clan of Fairbanks knows the story of the Interior, nobody can tell it like Dermot Cole. Cole is able to tell a tale about Alaska like no other Cole can. If you want to get a true slice of Interior life, then buy Dermot's books.

Crude Dreams: A Personal History of Oil & Politics in Alaska - "Crude Dreams" is a great read. Jack Roderick is a masterful storyteller. He provides us with an intriguing history of the oil industry in Alaska along with fascinating portraits of the unforgetable personalities who lived it. Any attempt to understand the oil business in Alaska is incomplete without this book. This is history at its very best.

Wildcat Women: Narratives of Women Breaking Ground in Alaska's Oil and Gas Industry - Wildcat Women is the first book to document the life and labor of pioneering women in the oil fields of Alaska's North Slope. It profiles fourteen women who worked in the fields, telling a little-known history of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

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