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TAPS History

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.

TAPS Planning

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.

TAPS Construction

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 TAPS Construction Photo #1
Photo TAPS Construction Photo #2
Photo TAPS Construction Photo #3
Photo TAPS Construction Photo #4

TAPS Operation

TAPS has been in continuous operation since June 1977.

  • The first oil moved through the pipeline on June 20, 1977.
  • The first tanker carrying North Slope crude oil left the Valdez terminal on August 2, 1977.
  • Through March 2001, 16,781 tankers had been loaded at Valdez.

Key events in the history of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

Date Event
March 1968
Oil discovered at Prudhoe Bay
August 14, 1970
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company incorporated by the owner companies
March, 1972
Department of Interior issues final environmental impact statement for TAPS
November 16, 1973
Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act signed into law
January 23, 1974
Federal Agreement and Grant of Right-of-Way
May 3, 1974
State Lease
April 29, 1974
Haul Road construction begins
September 29, 1974
Haul Road construction completed
May 27, 1975
First pipe laid (Tonsina River)
October 11, 1975
Yukon River bridge completed
May 31, 1977
Final pipeline weld
June 20, 1977
First oil flows from Pump Station 1
July 28, 1977
First oil reached VMT
August 1, 1977
First oil-laden tanker (ARCO Juneau) leaves Valdez Marine Terminal
July 1, 1979
Drag reducing agent first used
1988
Peak average daily throughput of 2.03 million bbl/day
March 24, 1989
Exxon Valdez oil spill
July 10, 1989
Alyeska Ship Escort/Response Vessel System established
1990
Federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990
1990
Joint Pipeline Office established
1990
Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council contract signed with Alyeska
1990
HB 567 enacted by Alaska Legislature amending oil pollution laws
1991
Atigun reroute
1993
Congressional hearings on TAPS operations
March 5, 1994
10 billionth bbl reaches VMT
1996 - 1997
Pump Stations 2, 6, 8, and 10 taken off-line and placed on standby due to lower throughput
1997
Tanker vapor recovery system added at VMT
August 12, 1997
15,000th tanker leaves VMT
April 27, 2000
13 billionth barrel reaches VMT


 
  
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