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Alaska Pipeline Importance

The oil fields of Alaska remain a mostly untapped resource that the United States looks to for fuel in the future. The U.S. has been depending on Alaska for 17% of its domestic crude for about 3 decades now, due to its large supplies that have been found thus far and one of the largest pipelines of its kind in the world.

Oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay in Northern Alaska in 1968, and motivated an assemblage of different oil companies to pool their financial resources and find a way to get the precious petroleum to port and to consumers. The five oil companies decided the most efficient way to move the oil would be an enormous pipeline stretching from the bay to the port of Valdez, a nearly 800 mile route which would stop at the northernmost ice-free port in the United States. These companies decided they would share profits and rights to the pipeline and hired the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company to keep the pipeline clean and running after its construction. The pipeline construction itself cost over 8 billion dollars and was the largest privately financed construction project ever.

The companies involved in the project and their shares in the pipeline, determined by the amount of money invested, are British Petroleum (46.93%), ConocoPhillips (28.29%), ExxonMobil (20.34%), Unocal (1.36%), and Koch (3.08%). These companies make sure that their private contracting company, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, keep things running smoothly, helping to protect their interests in Alaska and helping serve their customers around the U.S. Construction began in 1975 and was completed in 1977. The pipeline has a diameter of 48 inches and spans 800 miles across three mountain ranges and over nearly 800 Alaskan rivers and streams. In many sections, the pipeline needed to be elevated in order to protect the permafrost, permanently frozen soil, in danger of melting from the heat emanating from the crude carrying pipe.

The oil supplies at Prudhoe Bay have provided nearly 500 billion gallons of oil since the pipeline’s construction in 1977. Nearly 40 billion gallons of oil coarse through its steely-veined infrastructure every single day! The Trans Alaska Pipeline System is not only important to United States oil consumers and companies; perhaps its largest contribution is to the state government and inhabitants of Alaska itself. The pipeline provides nearly 80% of the funding for Alaska’s state government as well as giving Alaskan natives royalties from the oil production to help offset the use of their land for pipeline construction. As more oil is discovered in Alaska, more pipelines will surely become necessary for transport, further benefiting Alaskans and the United States population alike.