Alaska in Brief

More oil flowed through Trans Alaska Pipeline last year than in 2021 or 2020, operator reports

By: - January 10, 2023 6:19 pm
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is seen on Sept. 19 in Fairbanks. This portion of the pipeline, 450 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, has been transformed into a visitor pullout and is a tourist attraction. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is seen on Sept. 19 in Fairbanks. This portion of the pipeline, 450 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, has been transformed for visitors and has features like this commemorative sculpture. Flow of oil through the line in 2022 was greater than that in either 2021 or 2020, operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. reported. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The amount of oil flowing through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System was higher in 2022 than in each of the two years prior, the system’s operator said on Tuesday.

The system shipped over 176.4 million barrels of oil in the calendar year, averaging 483,415 barrels per day, said Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the consortium that operates the 800-mile line and its Valdez marine terminal.

It was the first time since 2017 that oil flowing through the pipeline – known as throughput – increased from the previous calendar year, Alyeska said in a statement. The 2022 totals were also higher than those from 2020, the company said.

In 2021, nearly 174.4 million barrels were shipped through the system, averaging 477,798 barrels per day, Alyeska said. In 2020, about 175.8 million barrels were shipped through the system, averaging 480,199 barrels per day, Alyeska said.

The throughput increase is good news, Alyeska said in its statement.

“The best long-term solution for safe and sustainable TAPS operations is more oil, so this increase is a notable milestone,” Betsy Haines, Alyeska’s interim president, said in the statement. “It’s also a positive for Alaskans and our state’s economy. We are all encouraged by discoveries and development on the North Slope, and supportive of an external environment that fosters responsible resource development, creates future throughput increases for TAPS, and strengthens our state and country.”

The Trans Alaska Pipeline System began shipping oil in 1977. Average daily throughput peaked in 1988 at over 2 million barrels per day. It has been declining since then, though with some variability, as North Slope fields age and become less productive. 

North Slope oil production has been influenced since early 2020 by several factors, some working in opposite directions.

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc., the top oil producer, drastically curtailed operations in Alaska and elsewhere. That included the suspension of production at about 300 North Slope wells and demobilization of nearly 2,000 North Slope workers. The reduced production was not permanently lost but deferred until later, the company said.

But also during the period since 2020, under Hilcorp Energy Co.’s new management, the long-term decline of production at the Greater Prudhoe Bay Unit was halted and, eventually, reversed. Hilcorp, a privately owned company known for revitalizing mature fields, became Prudhoe’s operator in mid-2020 after acquiring BP’s Alaska assets. Production at Prudhoe, the largest oil-field unit on the North Slope, is now higher than it was just prior to the Hilcorp takeover, according to the Alaska Department of Revenue. Average daily Prudhoe unit production was 295,427 barrels through December of 2019 but in December of 2022 it averaged 322,261 barrels, according to the department.

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Yereth Rosen
Yereth Rosen

Yereth Rosen came to Alaska in 1987 to work for the Anchorage Times. She has been reporting on Alaska news ever since, covering stories ranging from oil spills to sled-dog races. She has reported for Reuters, for the Alaska Dispatch News, for Arctic Today and for other organizations. She covers environmental issues, energy, climate change, natural resources, economic and business news, health, science and Arctic concerns -- subjects with a lot of overlap. In her free time, she likes to ski and watch her son's hockey games.

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