2015: A year in review
2015 was an incredibly successful year in many ways for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and TAPS.
In 2015, TAPS total throughput was 185,582,715 barrels, down just one percent from 187,406,088 in 2014. North Slope production averaged 508,446 barrels per day, which was also down around 1 percent from 2014 (513,441). In five of the last six months of 2015, production was higher than the same months in 2014. In fact, the two highest production months in 2015 were November and December.
TAPS staff worked 5.9 million hours in many capacities and scored its best safety performance on record. Alyeska was also honored by being named one of the world's most ethical companies for the fourth consecutive year. TAPS staff worked equally hard in our communities, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and volunteering hundreds of hours to Alaska nonprofits.
Getting to know the Glennallen Response Base
The Glennallen Response Base (GRB) is located in Alaska's Interior, a little over 100 miles north of Valdez. Originally designated as Pump Station 11, the facility was constructed as a response and maintenance base after it was decided that another pump station wasn't necessary. Now, a small Alyeska team, supported by a focused and energetic Ahtna baseline crew, coordinates and carries out maintenance and prevention activities along the pipeline right of way, while maintaining a constant state of oil spill response readiness. Their accountable area stretches from south of Paxson all the way to the gate of the Valdez Marine Terminal.
"I wake up in the morning and my first priorities are the safety of our team and spill response preparedness," said GRB Supervisor Jeff Streit, a TAPS veteran who traces his work history back to construction. "This area, we have it all. Mountains, fault lines, and the rivers and streams, many of which drain directly into the Copper River. I think it's some of the most challenging and complex geography on TAPS."
Streit works hand in hand with Larry Huelskoetter, the Ahtna Superintendent and longtime Copper River basin resident.
"The (Ahtna) crews are skillful," said Huelskoetter. "They go out into the elements at do important work safely. These individuals are connected to the area and it shows."
The team uses a variety of tools and vehicles to accomplish their work, from airboats to tuckers, which provide access to remote areas of TAPS in the winter time. They also maintain staged equipment in locations along TAPS, which can be deployed to protect sensitive areas in the event of a spill.
"At the end of the day, our job is to make sure every inch of pipe is sound," said Streit.
"And every inch of our employees is sound, too," added Huelskoetter.
In-line inspection tool travels TAPS in data collection project
Alyeska recently completed a successful in-line inspection (ILI) tool run of mainline from Pump Station 9 to the Valdez Marine Terminal. The run covered the final segment of a three-phase project that collected TAPS mainline integrity data. The first two ILI runs were completed in March and April: the first traveled 144 miles from Pump Station 1 to Pump Station 4; the second traveled 405 miles from Pump Station 4 to Pump Station 9.
The ILI tool (smart pig) started its third run when it was launched from PS 9 on October 21; it arrived at the Terminal, 251 miles away, on October 27. On October 30, Alyeska’s System Integrity team reviewed preliminary downloaded data, which indicated high quality data collection and a successful ILI tool run.
"It took a lot of innovative solutions to achieve these results," explained Leo Ramirez, Alyeska Pipeline System Integrity Manager. "It has been difficult to collect high quality integrity data in this segment due to operational challenges with declining throughput causing more slackline areas and increased wax buildup. We are all very proud and pleased with the teamwork dynamic that occurred during this project. The execution was flawless."
Alyeska completes ILI pig runs of TAPS every three years. Smart pigs can collect an assortment of critical data, including internal and external corrosion, metal loss, mechanical damage, and pipe geometry for detecting deformation and curvature. Since the ILI tool collects large quantities of data, it normally takes about four months for an ILI vendor to process and grade data and issue the final report. System Integrity then completes analysis of the data and identifies any preventative or mitigative actions required to keep the pipeline operating safely.
OVERCOMING PASSES AND WAXES
Project efforts for this year's runs actually began in 2014, involving many groups coordinating the activities and resolving technical requirements.
The work to get the smart pig safely and steadily through TAPS and over steep areas like Atigun Pass and Thompson Pass is complex and challenging. It also is a big job, literally – the pig is nearly 17 feet long, weighs 10,600 pounds, and must travel within specified speeds to accurately collect data (the average ILI tool travel speed with normal oil throughput is about 2 mph).
One of the biggest challenges of ILI runs on TAPS has been maintaining a reasonable and safe speed while descending Atigun Pass and Thompson Pass. If the ILI tool goes too fast, its data collection can be degraded or incomplete. A slackline in a steep stretch of pipe can also cause high speeds for the ILI tool. A pig traveling too quickly down a steep pass can create a pressure wave at splash-down, which increases risk and safety concerns. Previous high speed excursions exceeding the ILI tool’s specifications at Thompson Pass and Atigun Pass resulted in uncollected data and damaged tool components.
To conquer this challenge, a 3,000-foot slackline area of pipe in Thompson Pass was filled with as much oil as possible when the tool passed through that area. Increasing the slack interface was accomplished by raising backpressure from the Terminal, using stockpiled oil from pump station tanks to increase throughput to 984,000 barrels for a few hours and injecting drag reducing agent (DRA) at several locations (MP 238 DRA site, PS 7, PS 9 and a temporary site at Remote Gate Valve 96).
Initial modeling and simulation work was done in advance by the Technical Studies Team (Appraise Engineering) to prove the capability; Operations Engineering completed further extensive modeling and refinement while OCC performed simulations. A field practice run was completed one week before the actual ILI run to refine procedures, tune-up safety systems, and verify the DRA performance so that any increase in pipeline operating pressure was safely managed.
The live ILI run at Thompson Pass was successful as the tool reached a top speed of approximately 22 mph in an area where speeds in excess of 70 mph had been recorded in past runs. The ILI tool was able to collect integrity data where it had not been possible in the past.
"All the safeguards that were put into place for Thompson Pass tight-lining worked extremely well," said Ramirez.
Another significant challenge to collecting data from ILI tool runs is wax debris in the pipeline. The ILI tool's sensors that measure the pipe wall conditions need to be in direct contact with the wall. Wax creates a barrier between the two, reducing the reliability of measurements.
The final run called for progressive cleaning beyond what is used during normal operations. The cleaning process began in September with pig runs every four days from Pump Station 9 and by using various cleaning pigs (discs, brushes and scrapers), configurations and aggressiveness. When the ILI tool was removed from the pig receiver at the Terminal, it was extremely clean. In past runs, traces of wax had collected on the tool sensors.
System Integrity is still evaluating the ILI results of April's Segment 2 (Pump Station 4 to 9) run. Preliminary analysis of ILI results indicate possible degraded data for certain areas which was caused by sensor lift-off from wax debris. If the evaluation concludes that data collection is unacceptable in these lift-off areas, an ILI tool rerun through this segment will be considered in 2016.
The project (X515 Mainline Integrity Program) truly embodies taking a system view of TAPS. Many Alyeska departments collaborated on this project, including Engineering; Projects & Projects Controls; Pipeline Operations and Maintenance, as well as Pump Stations 1, 4, 5, 7, 9 and GRB O&Ms; ROW Maintenance; Pipeline Maintenance Support (pipeline coordinators); Oil Movements (OCC, Operations and Automation Engineering); VMT Operations; Supply Chain Management; and System Integrity. TAPS contractors involved in the project included Baker Hughes Incorporated, Coffman Engineering and HCC Baseline.
Major milestone achieved with forward flow at Pump Station 1
The recent opening of the discharge valve at Pump Station 1 marked the forward flow of crude oil through the station's new Electrification and Automation pumps, a significant achievement in the ongoing push to update the pumping systems on the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Forward flow commenced at 7:29 a.m. Thursday, October 15, when the Pump Station 1 discharge valve began to open. The valve was slowly opened to allow the legacy pumps to continue operating while the new mainline pumps came online. The valve was fully open at 8:06 a.m. and flow through the mainline pumps occurred at 8:14 a.m. as the legacy pumps idled.
Now, teams are conducting additional testing, including monitoring and tuning the control and performance of the new pumps under live operating conditions. Crews will also analyze the capability and reliability of the new power generation and variable frequency drives for the new pumps. Operations will shift back to the legacy pumps if needed to support performance testing and ensure safe operations through the test period.
Significant steps to complete E&A at Pump Station 1 remain, including bringing the 5 MW generator online and testing its capabilities, and cutover of the Scraper Building valves, the legacy buildings' HVAC systems, and the gas detection system in the Booster Pump Building.
"I want to thank the many people who have played a role and who have brought us this far and will continue their involvement until Pump Station 1 meets the criteria for full operational acceptance," said Tom Barrett, Alyeska President. "It's a terrific example of professionalism, innovation and teamwork on TAPS."
Work associated with the E&A project launched in 2001. The project has two primary goals: reduce physical infrastructure and simplify operations and maintenance. E&A pumps are operational at TAPS' three other active pump stations, Pump Stations 3, 4 and 9.
Mulitiple drivers influenced the E&A project. The new pumps are right-sized to today's throughput levels, whereas the legacy systems were intended to move higher volumes. The E&A pumps are scalable too, and can adjust more nimbly to increases and decreases in throughput. Overall, the new system will provide a more cost effective crude oil transportation system and will allow Alyeska to better support future North Slope exploration and production.
The automation portion of the project allows Alyeska to remotely control pipeline operations from the Operations Control Center in Anchorage. A major part of the upgrade involved an installation of an advanced supervisory control and data acquisition SCADA system. The E&A SCADA system allows pipeline controllers and technicians to monitor line-wide pipeline pressures, flow rates, temperatures, tank levels and pipeline valves.
RGV-40 replacement a fast-moving, fine-tuned orchestra
Replacing a remote gate valve (RGV) is a rare occurrence and an extraordinary project on TAPS. RGVs are placed at regular intervals along the pipeline to isolate flow and limit the release of oil to the environment in the event of a pipeline leak. These massive and critically important valves are replaced when they exceed Alyeska’s strict criteria for leak-through. Leak-through doesn’t mean the valve is creating a leak outside the pipe; instead, an unacceptable amount of oil is passing by when the valve is closed within the pipeline.
RGV-40, located less than a mile from the confluence of the Hammond and Koyukuk rivers north of Pump Station 5 and Coldfoot, had exceeded its leak-through criteria according to high TAPS standards. Crews replaced it during a 36-hour TAPS shutdown on August 21-22.
Julia Redington and Patrick Raapana know the process well. As an Alyeska portfolio project manager, Redington has worked on many TAPS mechanical projects, including challenging mainline bypass projects and shutdown turnaround work. A longtime pipefitter for Alyeska before moving to Hawk Consulting as a construction manager, Raapana said he has been involved in many of the valve replacements in TAPS history: five RGV replacements, a check valve replacement and a check valve repair.
The pair led the RGV-40 replacement. They explained that valve replacements usually involve many months of engineering and designing, as well as months of planning and staging, moving thousands of pounds of material, dozens of workers from various trades, a tight shutdown work schedule, and a worksite in a remote setting. Raapana called the work an "orchestra" and noted that "every replacement is a little different."
The RGV-40 team started arriving at the jobsite on June 19 for prep work and staging. After spending a few weeks with pipefitters and welders in Fairbanks, the new, 61,000-pound valve and around 30 feet of pipe it was to be installed in, arrived too. On shutdown kickoff day, August 21, nearly 50 workers were on-hand.
"The planning and pre-work goes on for weeks," explained Raapana. "The more preparation before a shutdown, the better you’ll perform."
Upon shutdown, the orchestra began. Stopples were placed to plug the mainline, oil was drained – about 340 barrels from 151 feet of pipe that contained the valve – into nearby tankers; energy isolation took place; around 30 feet of that pipe with the valve in the middle was cut and removed by a 300-ton crane.
The new stretch of replacement pipe and new valve were then swung into place and welders began connecting that pipe to the open north and south ends of TAPS. After five hours of welding, three hours of x-raying the welds, and one repair, crews went to Coldfoot to eat and rest for the night.
The next morning, crews introduced oil to the new stretch of pipe and equalized the new section to line pressure before retracting the stopples and completing the shutdown work. The complex work was wrapped up well before the end of the 36-hour shutdown.
"It was one pipeline again," Raapana said.
Redington added, "It's amazing what a team can deliver when we all pull together. Everyone was prepared and engaged. It was an excellent execution of work."
Wheels of Learning program gives students up-close experience
Meet Brandon, Stuart, Chase and Seth. They were participants in the 2015 Wheels of Learning program, which gives enthusiastic Valdez-area high school students the opportunity to spend their summers interning with the Alyeska Maintenance teams on the Valdez Marine Terminal.
Four days a week, the students shadowed technicians as they traveled around the Terminal keeping everything in working order. After a summer in the program, this group of students observed technicians rebuilding gate valves, checking belt tensions on mixer motors, and working on actuators.
This year's program, which has a longtime partnership with Valdez High School, began with a full week of safety training for the students. Beyond the standard classes that help bring new employees up-to-speed on Alyeska's safety protocols and culture, this group also had firewatch and confined space entry training.
"We knew about safety from our shop class," said Chase, "but it's definitely stricter here."
Seth added, "Yeah, we’ll be taking a lot of what we learned away from here, either home or back to shop."
Robotic inspection tool redefines TAPS innovation
This is a tale of perfect timing and imperfect piping, insistent independence and trusted teamwork, hundreds of hurdles and millions in savings, a simple Russian robot and a seismic company culture shift.
This is the story of the Robotic Inline Inspection Tool Team, which received Alyeska's 2015 Atigun Award for Innovation. The seven team winners, and the dozens of individuals, teams and organizations that supported the effort, were all integral in a game-changing three-year journey that led to the world's first crawler pig integrity inspection of a liquid pipeline: TAPS.
In the summer of 2014, a 200-pound Russian-owned robotic crawler pig inspected around 850 feet of 36-inch buried TAPS piping at Pump Station 3, providing a level of clarity on its system integrity that was previously inaccessible. The success of that inspection resulted in reduced risk and significant cost savings for Alyeska and TAPS. It also inspired similar inspections – as well as similar cost savings and risk reduction – in 2015 and the years ahead.
"There were so many people and teams involved; we all did our jobs, and we did our jobs well," said Bhaskar Neogi, Alyeska Senior Director of Risk and Compliance. "But this was also about luck, perseverance, stubbornness not to give up, and a willingness not to worry about if we failed. This project really shifted the culture of how things have always been done on TAPS."
Almost immediately after the 2011 Pump Station 1 spill incident, Alyeska leaders had discussions about risk ranking of all TAPS pipe, the pipe's expensive replacement options, and new approaches and technology of pipe inspection. Neogi met with a vendor, Russia-based Diakont, at an Outside conference. A few months later, he tested the tool and liked what he saw. Although "simple" in his words, Neogi noted the robotic crawler's numerous sensors, its three points of contact that allowed for smooth travel around curves and bends, and the instant data it provided. The only problem: the machines had only inspected gas lines, never liquid pipelines.
Still, Neogi shared news of the tool with key TAPS staff and leadership. Almost everyone bought in, though many also were concerned about testing, and possibly using, new system integrity technology inside TAPS. There were many regulatory hurdles ahead from local, state and national agencies, as well as countless meetings and even public hearings. There was the process of identifying a testing area. And then there was TAPS history.
"TAPS is not a guinea pig," Neogi said. "TAPS is 100 percent assurance. You didn't try new things on TAPS. And there was no precedence for this. But the culture of our company had changed under President Tom Barrett. Tom backed this project. He said, 'What's the opportunity cost? If there's potential for a big benefit, be brave and try it.'"
Teams and the project charged ahead. The group identified Pump Station 10 for testing and the timing was perfect. The pump station was already mobilized for another project and its isolated pipes were clean and empty of crude. Its piping was also very similar to that at Pump Station 3. After owner approval and funding, and months of planning and preparation, the test was run.
"It went so well, it convinced everyone that we could take it to Pump Station 3 for an inspection," Neogi said.
The Pump Station 3 inspection was an even greater success. Its foundation was laid by exceptional teamwork, leadership and innovation. Alyeska's Dan Williamson led the project, which was assisted by Alyeska's Procurement, Quality Assurance, Design Engineering, Project Management, Project Engineering, Operations, System Integrity and Compliance teams. There was also wide-ranging preparation and execution work by staff from Alyeska, Houston Contracting Company and Diakont at the Galbraith Maintenance Base.
"It went really well – the pipe didn't need a single repair, there wasn't much corrosion," Neogi said. "We were also ahead of schedule and budget. ... And this probably saved us $72 million in pipe replacement that would have been done in the past. In the next few years, the savings will be even greater."
This year, the inspection tool will be used on pipe at Pump Stations 4 and 9. In 2016, it will travel to Pump Station 1 and Valdez.
"The application for this tool is now unlimited," Neogi said.
The Atigun Award recipients are: Pat McDevitt, Alyeska (retired); Bhaskar Neogi, Alyeska; Dave Roberts, Alyeska; Kris Gabrielson, Alyeska; Jim Hoppenworth, Alyeska; Steve Lacatena, Alyeska; and Dan Williamson, Alyeska.
Interns begin summer work around Alyeska, along TAPS
Twelve interns, all of them Alaskans, have joined Alyeska for the 2015 Summer Internship program. The interns were selected to help fulfill the company's overall workforce development needs in strategic focus areas such as engineering and process technology/instrumentation. The interns will be deployed in Anchorage, the Valdez Marine Terminal, and various pump stations along TAPS.
"We're incredibly fortunate to have the cream of the crop students interested in working at Alyeska," said Tabetha Toloff, Alaska Native Program Director. "We recruit outstanding individuals because our internship program is essentially an extended interview to determine fit and if Alyeska is where they would like to start their professional careers."
This summer's interns are:
• Taryn Byrd of Anchorage, a process technology/instrumentation student at UAA and Kenai Peninsula College who will work in Pipeline Operations at Pump Station 9
• Sylvin Carter of North Pole, a process technology student at UAF who will work in Pipeline Operations at Pump Station 1
• Ehren Rickman of Soldotna, a process technology/instrumentation student at Kenai Peninsula College who will work in Pipeline Operations at Pump Station 1
• Shawn Eby of Anchorage, a civil engineering student at UAA who will work in Project Engineering in Anchorage
• Nathan Kingsland of Fairbanks, an electrical engineering student at UAF who will work in Project Engineering in Anchorage
• Valisa Hansen of Anchorage, a mechanical engineering student at UAA who will work in Projects in Anchorage
• Raymond Kangas of Anchorage, a mechanical engineering student at UAF who will work in System Integrity in Anchorage
• Cameron Toskey of Anchorage, a chemical engineering student at the University of Idaho who will work in System Integrity in Anchorage
• Jennifer Osborne of Anchorage, a mechanical engineering student at UAA who will work in Analytical Services in Valdez
• Blake Burley of North Pole, a mechanical engineering student at UAF who will work in Facility Engineering in Valdez
• Sam Guzauskas of Anchorage, a mechanical engineering student at UAA who will work in Facility Engineering in Valdez
• Greg Schmidt of Anchorage, an electrical engineering student at UAA who will work in Facility Engineering in Valdez
The summer internship period runs through the end of August and recruitment for the 2016 internship program begins September 1.
Environmental Performance Award for Alyeska
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company has received a prestigious 2014 Environmental Performance Award from the American Petroleum Institute. The award was presented Tuesday, April 28 at API’s 66th annual pipeline conference in Savannah, Ga. Alyeska received the award in the Large Operator category and was recognized for its excellent environmental performance in 2014, a year in which the company had no spills.
"This performance is the result of unrelenting commitment to protect Alaska's environment and outstanding work by the whole TAPS team – employees and contractors," said Thomas Barrett, Alyeska President. "We know there is no easy day in our business. We strive to achieve this flawless level of performance every day."
The API's Environmental Performance Award is presented based on data submitted to the Pipeline Performance Tracking System, giving equal weight to the number of incidents per mile of operated pipeline and the volume released per barrel mile for 2014. This ensures that operators are addressing risk in both the frequency and consequences of releases.
To be eligible for the award, companies must have, during the award year, recorded no fatalities of employees, contractors or any member of the public as a result of a pipeline release; no hospitalization of any member of the public due to a pipeline release; and no shutdown of a community drinking water supply as a result of a release. The company must also have had no environmental enforcement action, settlement agreement, or Consent Decree by the U.S. Department of Justice during the award year.
In a very busy 2014, 187 million barrels of crude oil were moved on TAPS. There were no spills that had significant environmental impacts, financial implications, or compliance implications. Learn more about Alyeska’s Environmental program at www.alyeska-pipe.com/SafetyEnvironment/EnvironmentalProtection.
API is the only national trade association representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, which supports 9.8 million U.S. jobs and 8 percent of the U.S. economy. API’s more than 625 members include large integrated companies, as well as exploration and production, refining, marketing, pipeline, and marine businesses, and service and supply firms. They provide most of the nation’s energy and are backed by a growing grassroots movement of more than 30 million Americans. Learn more about API at www.api.org.
Learn more about the 2014 award winners at www.api.org/news-and-media/news/newsitems/2015/apr-2015/equistar-chemicals-lp-equistar-pipelines-wins-api-distinguished-safety-and-environmental-award.
Alyeska, Bauke honored for safety excellence
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company was given a Governor's Safety Award of Excellence and Lee Bauke, longtime Alyeska Safety program member, received an Everett Award for her outstanding safety career at the recent Alaska Governor's Safety & Health Conference in Anchorage.
"This is exciting because these awards aren't just based on successful safety programs, but also on a company's culture of safety," said Brian Beauvais, Alyeska's Senior Health and Safety Manager, Risk and Compliance. "At Alyeska, we ensure that every level within the company is making safety a priority."
The Governor's Safety Award of Excellence honors an organization’s safety and health systems that protect their employees in the workplace and promote corporate citizenship. The TAPS workforce in 2014 capped a remarkable streak of 19.5 million hours without a serious workplace injury. And from 2012-2014, Alyeska employees work 4.78 million hours and had a .08 total recordable injuries and illnesses rate and no serious injuries.
"Sound programs are essential to strong safety performance," Beauvais said. "But ultimately, safety is about people, not just programs. At Alyeska and on TAPS, our people look out for one another and act with discipline, which ultimately keeps them safe and makes our safety programs successful."
Alyeska has received this award in the past, as well.
"The reason we keep winning it is because we keep progressing as a company and our numbers keep improving," Bauke said. "Alyeska stands out for having a really stellar safety system."
In earning the Everett Award, Bauke shines among her peers. The award recognizes individuals who dedicate their lives to the advancement of safety. Bauke is a certified safety professional and safety and environmental trainer who has worked in many safety positions at Alyeska during her 14 years here. Last year, she was appointed by former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell to the Alaska Safety Advisory Council, which works to reduce accidental death and injury. She also serves as an adjunct professor for the University of Alaska in occupational health and safety/hazardous waste management.
"It feels awesome to receive this award, and it is critical that I work for a company that supports our safety work," Bauke said. "For me, safety is a passion and I try to be a resource in as many ways as possible."
Beauvais said that Bauke's "day-to-day actions in the workplace, out in the field and even in the classroom truly make her a safety professional of the year. Her passion and care for people being safe is visible in every action. It's never just about enforcing the law or rules with Lee – it's about people not getting hurt. She always ties her work back to the people on TAPS."