"Government Sees Major Safety Issues On Alaska Oil Line"

"A U.S. government investigation of the Trans Alaska oil pipeline has found potentially major safety issues on the line that ships 12 percent of domestic oil supply, making its operation risky until repairs are made, according to a letter sent by regulators to the operator and viewed by Reuters on Friday.

The 800-mile line known as TAPS appears to have "multiple conditions" that "pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property or the environment," according to the February 1 letter to operator Alyeska from the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) pipeline safety division.

The DOT investigation follows a January 8 leak on the line which forced it to shut down for several days in precarious winter conditions. The closure shut in millions of barrels in production and caused U.S. oil futures to rise for days.

The letter, called a "notice of proposed safety order," requests that Alyeska take several measures to mitigate risks along the line, including replacing some piping. DOT told Alyeska to expect a forthcoming "safety order" requiring action."

Joshua Schneyer reports for Reuters February 14, 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011