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Will the Trans Alaskan Pipeline Be Forced to Shutdown?

Last week marked the end of “Step 1″ in the misguided protest over the KeystoneXL pipeline that the Obama administration will either approve or deny before the end of the year. But another pipeline related issue that is getting less attention is the Trans Alaskan pipeline (TAPS), which ships oil from the northern coast of Alaska down to ports on the southern coast, see this map:

The pipe reached its peak flow in 1988 transporting roughly 2 million barrels of oil per day from the Prudhoe Bay area. Currently the TAPS transports roughly 500,000 barrels per day, and this is expected to decline in the future if steps are not taken to allow Alaska to increase its oil production, which has been consistently hamstrung by the federal government. This report suggests that there are problems with flows lower than 600,000 mpd but that they get more severe under roughly 400,000 mpd and could warrant a shut down.

Will the government allow Alaska to increase its production — further exploring the North Slope as well as drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and potentially ANWR? Alaska’s economy is heavily reliant on oil production, with some studies suggesting that as much as 40% of employment in Alaska relates to or relies on oil production. We looked at government actions that are preventing energy exploration in Alaska earlier this year.

 

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