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TAPS was planned in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a means to transport oil from Alaska's North Slope to Valdez for shipping to other destinations by tanker. TAPS was built between 1974 and 1977 and has been in continuous operation since 1977.
The concept of transporting oil south from Alaska was discussed as early as the 1960s. In 1968, large crude oil reserves were discovered at Prudhoe Bay by the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). ARCO joined with BP Oil and Humble Oil to form the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Systems (TAPS). TAPS was proposed to ship crude oil to the southern Alaska seaport of Valdez (an ice-free port), from where it would be shipped to refineries by tanker.
Pipeline construction from Prudhoe Bay required transiting a route where much of the right-of-way was on federal and state lands. Legislation (the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act [P.L. 93-153]) was required to end what had become a stalemate over the route. This right-of-way legislation enabled the pipeline to be constructed.
Environmental studies for the pipeline were started and applications for permits submitted in 1968. Suits were filed by environmental groups and others to block pipeline construction in 1970. Several Native villages filed a lawsuit claiming the pipeline would cross their land. The land ownership question was settled with Congressional passage of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act and its signature into law by President Richard Nixon in December 1971.
The 48-inch special cold-weather steel was ordered from Japan in April 1969. The building permit for the pipeline was issued in 1974.
Actual construction began in April 1974 and was completed in June 1977 at a cost of approximately $8 billion. At the time, it was the largest privately funded construction project in history. Approximately 2,000 contractors and subcontractors, as well as approximately 70,000 workers, were employed to work on the project.
Paralleling the pipeline from Livengood to Deadhorse, the Dalton Highway (locally known as the Haul Road) was built as a supply route for use in construction, operation, and maintenance of the northern portion of TAPS and the oil fields on the North Slope. This road is now a State highway.
TAPS Construction Photo #1
TAPS Construction Photo #2
TAPS Construction Photo #3
TAPS Construction Photo #4
TAPS has been in continuous operation since June 1977.
Key events in the history of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
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