Study focuses on aging oil, gas infrastructure

A long-awaited study of the risks posed by Alaska's aging oil and gas infrastructure is beginning this fall.

The study was an outgrowth of the spills, leaks and corrosion discovered on the North Slope in the past few years. Last year, the Legislature approved $5 million for it.

Since then, the project's been moving slowly.

Too slowly, for some.

"Some of the things they should have done already," griped Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, who used to work construction on the North Slope.

Accidents on the Slope keep happening, he said, pointing out the high-pressure natural gas pipeline at Prudhoe Bay that blew up Monday. The blast hurtled a pipe segment onto the tundra and resulted in shutting down wells at two oil production pads.

Leaks from two corroded oil pipes in 2006 -- including the North Slope's biggest-ever oil spill -- caused half of Prudhoe Bay to shut down for weeks, temporarily slowing the flow of oil revenue to the state.

Now, Prudhoe Bay oil field operator BP is replacing 16 miles worth of corroded pipe at a cost of $260 million.

Prudhoe was built more than 30 years ago, making it the Slope's oldest field.

The study won't be finished until early 2010.

Read the complete story at

It involves a lengthy review and ranking of the oil and gas-related risk along the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline, at the Valdez tanker port, and at North Slope and Cook Inlet fields.