Early predictions suggested TAPS wouldn't reach 20 years of operation, much less 40. But employees' dedication, system modernization, North Slope production that exceeded expectations, and ongoing application of lessons learned have sustained TAPS, as has what we at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the pipeline operator, call TAPS Pride. It's a sense of ownership held by those connected to the pipeline – Alyeska employees, contractors, family, friends and tens of thousands of people who have contributed to the TAPS legacy.
Upon seeing TAPS, visitors are awed. More than half of the pipeline runs above ground. That engineering decision, due to seismic and permafrost issues, coupled with spectacular Alaska backdrops, make TAPS one of the world's most photographed pipelines.
It is fascinating to talk to visitors at the TAPS viewing site in Fox, or to read social media posts about personal TAPS experiences. The most interesting tales come from TAPS workers. A quarter of the current Alyeska workforce of around 800 has been with the company for more than 20 years; some were here at startup. Several family members are third generation employees. More than 90 percent of the diverse Alyeska workforce lives in Alaska; more than 20 percent are Alaska Native; and 70 percent of TAPS contractor companies are based in Alaska. Those Alaska roots are a foundation of TAPS pride and operational excellence.
The pride extends to the communities where our personnel live and work. From 1978-2016, Alyeska purchased more than $25 billion in goods and services and paid $32 million in non-property taxes and fees, in addition to taxes paid by the TAPS owners. Over that same time, the company contributed $41 million in charitable contributions and $7 million in scholarships. Since 2001, Alyeska staff personally donated more than $1 million and more than 24,000 volunteer hours.
Like any 40-year run, there have been performance highs and lows. Throughput numbers have certainly swung. At peak flow in 1988, 11 pump stations helped move 2.1 million barrels of oil a day; daily averages dropped just about every year since. In 2016, oil throughput, now moved by only four pump stations, was 517,868 barrels a day. It marked the first year of a throughput increase since 2002, and 2017 numbers so far are running above 2016.
Those upticks feed our 40th year of operations with fresh enthusiasm and optimism. More oil through TAPS is the path to smoother, more reliable and efficient operations, and more long-term benefits for Alaskans. Recent reports of discoveries and increased production on the North Slope is great news.
While there has been a lot of change on TAPS over 40 years, one unwavering constant remains: the commitment of the people who work on TAPS today to provide safe, reliable, operational excellence, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, resilient amid all of Alaska's extreme geography and weather.
This should give us all – Alyeska personnel, TAPS contractors, Alaskans, the nation – a vision of another potential TAPS milestone: 40 more years of successful operations across Alaska.
Admiral Tom Barrett, U.S. Coast Guard (ret.), has been president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. since 2011. Read stories or share your own at Alyeska’s 40th anniversary website: www.alyeska-pipe.com/NewsCenter/AnniversaryStories.