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Are we getting any oil from the Alaska pipeline?

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Q. Are we receiving any oil from Alaska's pipeline?

- Wayne, Palmetto

A. Yes, a lot, since Alaska is the second-largest domestic crude oil producer, behind Texas, and 96 percent of Alaska's oil comes from the North Slope, served by the pipeline.

That's according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But production has fallen for more than 20 years, and providing enough oil to keep the pipeline operating is cropping up as a political issue in Alaska.

Alaska's crude oil production peaked in 1988 at 738 million barrels of oil a year, about 25 percent of total U.S. oil production. In 2009, it produced about 236 million barrels, 14 percent of total U.S. production.

Republican Sean Parnell, who replaced Sarah Palin as governor and set out to undo Palin's oil tax increases, said in a March 17 New York Times report that Alaska is projected to fall to No. 4 in oil production within a decade.

An op-ed piece today in the Anchorage Daily News, supporting Parnell's initiative, says only one new exploration well was drilled on the North Slope this year compared to 18 in 2007.

Written by Tom Maloney, president of Alaska's private, nonprofit Resources Development Council, the op-ed piece says, "There is still a lot of oil to be produced from North Slope core fields on state lands. However, much of the remaining oil will be challenging and expensive to develop."

Some other facts about the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, or TAPS:

• Runs across 800 miles, about the distance from Tampa to Richmond, Va. It crosses three mountain ranges and about 800 rivers and streams.

• Moves crude oil from the frozen North Slope to the warm-water Port of Valdez, on Alaska's southern coast.

• Has carried more than 15 billion barrels since it opened in 1977.

• A 48-inch steel pipe, it moves warm oil so it is elevated in places to keep it from melting the permafrost.

• Supplies refineries in Alaska, California, Hawaii and Washington.

• Moved oil strictly for domestic markets until 1996, when a ban on foreign exports was lifted. The ban was restored in 2004.

• Built and operated by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., a consortium of BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc., ConocoPhillips Transportation Alaska Inc., ExxonMobil Pipeline Co., Unocal Pipeline Co., Koch Alaska Pipeline Co.

- Dennis Joyce

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