Oil was flowing again through the trans-Alaska pipeline on Wednesday, but at just two-thirds of the capacity from before a leak caused it to be shut down for more than three days.
The shutdown was the second-longest ever for the pipeline, which carries about 13 percent of the oil produced in the United States.
On Wednesday morning, the pipeline was again moving crude oil from the country’s largest oil field at a rate of roughly 400,000 barrels every day. Before the shutdown Saturday morning, the pipeline was transporting about 630,000 barrels on a daily basis.
The pipeline was restarted at around 9 a.m. Tuesday even though the leak near a pumping station at Prudhoe Bay continued to send oil into the building’s basement. The station is the final stop along the 800-mile pipeline is the final stop before oil moves on to a marine terminal where the oil is then loaded onto tankers for delivery to the West Coast.
The amount of oil leaking from the pipeline got worse after it was restarted. Enough oil to fill an 800-gallon containment unit had leaked between Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, and vacuum trucks were brought into continuously remove it, according to Stefani Bell of Alyeska Pipeline Co. The pipeline was restarted from concerns of ice forming around the lines due to the shutdown period.
The shutdown lasted a total of 84 hours, the longest since August 1977 when the pipeline was shutdown for more than four days, just a few months after it began operating.
The pipeline will have to be shut down for about 36 hours this weekend so that repairs to the pumping station can be made.
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