Key Facts

– It took over 5 years to design and was built in 3 years (1974-77)
– The total cost was estimated to be around $8 billion
– Over 70000 people worked at some point on the project
– 32 people were killed during the project
– It’s 800 miles long
– Diameter – 48in
– It crosses 3 mountain ranges and 834 river and streams
– It has a daily capacity of 1.4 billion barrels of oil and it is pumped through at a temperature of 65*C
– It delivers 20% of the US domestic oil production

 

 

Strategies to Reduce its the Impact on the Fragile Environment

  1. Where the pipeline crosses areas of fine-grained permafrost (420 miles) it is elevated above the ground so that the heat from the pipe is not conducted into the ground and doesn’t melt the permafrost.
  2. The elevated structure is on supports/sliding joints which allows the pipeline to shift sideways as a protection against damage due to ground movement, like earthquakes. It is designed to resist earthquakes between 5.5 and 8.5 on the Richter Scale.
  3. The pilings are specially designed to resist being jacked up by successive years of frost heave.
  4. It is built in a zig-zag pattern so that it can move sideways to combat ground movement. It can also move sideways if the pipe expands or contracts due to temperature changes, whereas a straight pipe wouldn’t have enough flexibility to absorb the growth.
  5. The pipe is buried where it passes under roads, through avalanche-sensitive areas and where it could block major caribou migration routes. Here, the pipe is covered by thick insulation.
  6. 4 miles of the pipeline beneath ground is refrigerated to prevent the thawing of the permafrost.
  7. Special valves have been placed at 71 points along the pipeline which would shut down in case of a break in the pipe in order to minimise damage. The whole pipeline can be shut down in 4 minutes. Prevents huge oil spills which would kill many animals and destroy the fragile environment.
  8. Quick growing species were introduced in order to stabilise the area. This is because vegetation in the Tundra can take 20 years to grow again once disturbed due to short growing seasons and harsh conditions.

 

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