Pipeline Right-of-way Renewal

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was constructed through Alaska on right-of-way lands granted by federal, state, and private landowners. State and federal grants were renewed in 2002 and 2003, respectively, for the maximum 30 years.

The Bureau of Land Management, which has system-wide oversight of TAPS renewal, had issued a draft environmental impact statement, on which PWSRCAC commented regarding safety at the VMT. The council weighed in on this issue because the Valdez Marine Terminal (VMT) is included in the renewal process as part of TAPS. Comments covered a wide range of issues including air quality, water quality, and concerns regarding adequate maintenance practices for the VMT.

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What is the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System?
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) transports crude oil 800 miles across the state of Alaska, from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the North Slope to the Valdez Marine Terminal (VMT) in Valdez, the United States’ northernmost ice-free port. TAPS was completed in 1977 after two years of construction. At the terminal the crude oil is loaded onto oil tankers for transport.

During 2002, tankers were loaded at the rate of 38 per month and just less than one million barrels of oil arrived in Valdez each day. In mid-2005, about 825,000 barrels per day flow into the Valdez Marine Terminal and tankers are loaded at the rate of about 30 per month. Nevertheless, more than 10 percent of U.S. oil production still consists of the crude oil shipped through the Valdez Marine Terminal. At its peak in 1988, North Slope production supplied more than two million barrels to be loaded into tankers in Valdez each day.

At the rate of 850,000 barrels per day, it takes a little over 11 days for oil to travel from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. As much as nine million barrels may be in the pipeline at any one time. The VMT has a nominal storage capacity of about nine million barrels; however, only about seven million barrels of this capacity is currently in use. The terminal is a 1,000-acre facility on the southern shore of Port Valdez, across from the town of Valdez.

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