Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline

My first few days here were spent doing refresher training. This involved riding around on motorcoaches and listening to driver/guides give tours of Fairbanks. I learned a lot. One of our stops was at the Trans-Alaska pipeline. This picture is not a picture of the pipeline. This is a picture of all the stuff John Reeves (aka Big John - 6'8" 350 lbs.) has set up across from the pipeline. The big dome used to be part of the Early Warning Defense System. Big John bought it from the government because the government was tearing all the domes down. His plan is to turn the dome into an "Auroreum." This Auroreum would be a place where people could see a simulation of the Northern Lights. Big John plans on getting the temperature in there to about -10 or -20 degrees because you don't see the Northern Lights until it gets dark and cold in Fairbanks. He will let people come in for free but will charge them $10 to get out.

This IS the Alaska pipeline. The pipeline is 800 miles long. It start at Prudoe Bay on the North Slope and ends at Valdez. Valdez stays ice free all winter and so they can ship the oil year round. 420 miles of the pipeline are above ground and 380 miles are buried. The pipeline is coming out of the ground here. They elevate the pipeline when the pipeline route goes through an area of unstable permafrost. They can't bury the pipeline in the permafrost because the warmth of the pipeline would melt the frozen ground, the pipeline would shift and sink and ultimately break, causing a huge underground oil spill. This would be a big problem. This viewpoint is at milepost 450, so about halfway along the length of the pipeline. It's elevated as high as it is because when they built it, they didn't want to interrupt the migration routes of the moose and caribou.

These fine gentlemen are Josh and Matt. They are identical twins. The only way to tell them apart is that Matt hates to shave and Josh hates having a beard. Josh is always trying to get Matt to shave and Matt is always trying to get Josh to not shave. They are a lot of fun - and even more important they are two of the finest men I have ever met. They are Christian and very respectful and just all around really cool. Matt (on the right) and I have been doing our refresher training together.

Yep, life's been pretty rough having to ride around with a really hot, really cool guy...AND getting paid for it!! :-)

Here's me standing next to one of the VSMs, otherwise known as Vertical Support Members. The VSMs support the pipeline. They are filled with anhydrous ammonia which has a very low boiling point. If the ground starts to heat up, the ammonia boils and floats to the top of the VSM. The heat dissipates through the silver fins, the ammonia cools and falls back to the base of the VSM and the process starts all over again. The pipeline is actually resting on a "shoe" that is lined on the bottom with teflon. Alyeska, the company that owns the pipeline, built the pipeline to withstand the extreme temperature changes (-80 degrees in the winter to up to 100 degrees in the summer) that Alaska experiences and also to withstand an earthquake of 9.6 on the Richter scale. As the pipeline expands and contracts with the temperature changes it can slide back and forth on the shoe. Also, if there is an earthquake, it can slide on the shoe and there are bumpers that protect it if it slides into the VSM.

I look like a midget next to the pipeline.

This display shows the path the pipline takes from Prudoe Bay to Valdez. Matt and I are practicing being good tour guides. We're also considering applying for Vanna White's job on Wheel of Fortune.

Hmm, I can't put the cursor next to the picture. Weird. Anyway, Alyeska hired me to hold up the pipeline 'cause I'm so wicked strong!!

1 comment:

Anne said...

Ummm...Matt and Josh are deicious. Do you think you could fit them in your luggage and bring them back to DC?

Thanks for the picture tour of AK, it's been very informative.

Oh, and thanks for your comment on my blog. Denial is de-lovely. :)