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PubTalk 10/2004 — Hot Oil, Frozen Ground, and Earthquakes

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Detailed Description

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline story-- so far, so good!

by George Gryc, Arthur Lachenbruch, and Robert Page, Scientists Emeriti

  • The 1968 discovery of North America.s largest oil fi eld on the Arctic coast posed the challenge of an 800-mile pipeline to carry hot oil across mountains, rivers, and the giant Denali Fault
  • The oil industry's plan was to bury the hot pipeline, even through extensive tracts of permafrost (frozen ground)
  • After USGS scientists raised the alarm about hazards to the pipeline and the environment, a USGS working group set performance requirements for the pipeline
  • Redesign of the pipeline--elevated over ice-rich permafrost and set on "sliders" across the Denali Fault--delayed the project 2 years and increased its cost from $900 million to $8 billion
  • When the Denali Fault slipped 14 feet under the pipeline in a powerful 2002 quake, the design worked--no oil was spilled!
  • The story of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has been a complex battle of scientific, economic, safety, environmental, and political concerns--what lessons can we learn from it?




Public Domain.