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42 years of fueling AK

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"Piglets" explore, inspect Terminal piping

What do pipeline people accustomed to inspecting 48-inch diameter TAPS pipe use when they have to thoroughly inspect two-, four- and six-inch diameter piping? A parade of piglets, of course!
 
In July, TAPS teams utilized a Small Bore Inline Inspection Tool (aka smart piglet) and small cleaning pigs to inspect a quarter-mile of aged, six-inch diameter underground ultra-low sulfur diesel pipe at the Valdez Marine Terminal. It was the first inspection of the piping since TAPS construction and the teams leveraged the modern, mini inspection tools to collect data that would determine the integrity of the pipe and the potential risk of diesel escaping to nearby water.
 
Alan Beckett, Alyeska's Senior Integrity Management Engineer, called the project "a defining moment of technology use on TAPS."
 
The small bore piping inspection project took about a year to complete after the contract was in place. Alyeska teamed up with Quest Integrity, Coffman Engineering, Houston Contracting Company, and PEAK on the project. The team chose to challenge the Quest Integrity cleaning and inspection tools at the Terminal, where there are all types of piping, infrastructure and equipment to work around. And they chose to inspect the Terminal's fuel line system because most of it runs underground, it terminates at the shoreline, and they wanted assurance that it was in good condition.
 
Just like the massive pigs that clean and inspect the 800 miles of TAPS piping, these little piglets cleaned and inspected the smaller diesel line.
 
The big difference?
 
"One person can easily handle these pigs," explained Carol Simmons, Alyeska Integrity Engineer. "They're very flexible and light. The six-inch diameter cleaning pigs are 18 inches long and made of light foam. The inspection pig is about three feet long and weighs about 20 pounds."
 
In fact, the three cleaning pigs were so light that Simmons' team had to use a pump skid to provide a push during the six cleaning runs. One cleaning pig was simple foam; another was more aggressive with brushes; and a third scraped the pipe with rubber discs.
 
"The cleaning pigs did a great job! The more pigs you run through the pipe, the better you get at launching, tracking and receiving the pigs," Simmons said.
 
She added that "Forty years of debris came out" during the multiple cleaning runs which each took 12-15 minutes to complete.
 
With clean pipes, the team ran two inspections with the smart piglet – the first lost about three feet of data collection when it hit a T in the line and found an air pocket; the second, after a backflush of the system to remove the air, caught all the data. Each inspection run was about 15-20 minutes.
 
"We were hoping to find pinholes, pits, general corrosion, wall thickness deviations, dents and more," explained Simmons. When the data came back, Simmons said the system was in surprisingly great shape – pipe thickness looked good, with very little corrosion, except for a pair of big dents in one small stretch of pipe.
 
"Our best guess is maybe a backhoe clamped onto the pipe then let it go after realizing what it was, leaving a dent on both sides," Simmons added. "Fortunately the pigs were able to pass through the narrow area."
 
After careful excavation of the pipe, the exposed area was then inspected with other nondestructive examination methods including dye penetrant, magnetic particle, straight beam UT, and laser profilometry. While no loss of containment occurred, the team then repaired the damage by welding a sleeve over the dented area, then coating, wrapping and reburying it.
 
Beckett and Simmons said last summer's work could be just the start of small bore utility piping inspections at the Terminal and at TAPS pump stations, where there are arrays of small diameter lines that serve many purposes. Specifically at the Terminal, Simmons is interested in inspecting the chemical sewer line, the ballast water lines and more.
 
"I think this is a great program that we should continue to develop, to assure ourselves that the 40-year-old small bore piping is in good shape, and will not need to be replaced anytime soon," Simmons said.

Alyeska Traveling Health Fair: Positive PWS impact

Alyeska's Traveling Health and Safety Fair spent four days in the Prince William Sound communities of Tatitlek and Chenega Bay recently, marking the 21st year of the annual event. Eight health care providers from across Alaska, nine UAA pharmacy students and faculty, and a pair of Alyeska employees joined the crew of Edison Chouest Offshore’s utility tug Ross Chouest, which transported the contingent on its five-day journey from Valdez to Tatitlek to Chenega Bay and back.

The group facilitated two full-day schedules of events each in Tatitlek and Chenega Bay. Both stops included a free health fair available for all residents, where they could receive basic biometric screenings and information on nutrition, healthy relationships, tobacco prevention, active lifestyles and more. Throughout both days there were also hearing, vision and development checkups for the community’s kids and classroom sessions about mental health and wellness, first aid and handwashing, positive communication and healthy food choices.

Each morning, health fair contributors ate breakfast with local youth at their schools. There were also special men's breakfasts, women's teas, and community dinners that packed each school's respective gymnasium, offering tasty and healthy menus that were headlined by Cajun-style shrimp and corn soup created by ECO Chef Chad Cavalier.

Local leaders and high school students also had the opportunity to tour the Ross Chouest, which provides a variety of services around the Prince William Sound area. Captain Carlos Alemany and his enthusiastic crew led visitors around the unique vessel’s deck, into its engine room, and other areas.

Even rare moments of downtime were filled with opportunities for health fair participants to encourage healthy lifestyles by playing basketball or jumping rope with local youth and assist in community projects like sewing tribal regalia, organizing donated library books, and prepping healthy snacks for schoolkids.

"The Prince William Sound Traveling Health Fair is the culmination of months of careful planning and preparation by Alyeska staff, contractors and community partners," explained Kate Dugan, Alyeska's Valdez Communications Manager. "It was special to make the trip for the first time with Edison Chouest Offshore and the terrific crew aboard the Ross Chouest. The event is always an adventure and this year was no exception."

Click here to see more photos!

Alyeska engineers step up in wake of big quake

When the big quake struck Nov. 30, most Alaskans suffered similar reactions – ranging from fear to anxiety to alarm for loved ones and property. 
 
Alyeska structural engineers Brian Johnson and Sterling Strait felt some of those things too; but the two men's thoughts also shifted quickly to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. 
 
Sterling, Alyeska's Seismic Program Coordinator accountable for responding to earthquakes impacting TAPS, immediately called the Operations Control Center: "All I could hear were alarms in the background," he said. Learning the epicenter was centered in Anchorage, he continued to coordinate with engineering and field crews throughout the day until TAPS restarted.  
 
While the pipeline passed unscathed by the 7.0 tremblor that rattled Alaskans mentally and shook structures and roads apart physically, that wasn't the end of work for Brian and Sterling. In the days following the quake, Alyeska freed up both engineers to assist the Alaska DOT inspecting and assessing state property for damages and usability. For their efforts in the aftermath of one of the area's largest quakes on record, the two men were formally recognized with Certificates of Appreciation from the State of Alaska Division of Facility Services. 
 
The appreciation was "a nice gesture," Brian said. "But it's not done with that in mind. It's a community need, and if that's your skill set, well, it's your community."
 
Added Sterling, "It's a rare role for engineers to be able to help like that."  
 
Sterling and Brian are relatively new to Alyeska, but both have many years logged as structural engineers in Alaska's oil and gas and construction industry. Brian was hired about six months back. following in the footsteps of his dad, an Alyeska retiree; his cousin works in HR. Sterling joined Alyeska a year and a half ago.
 
Sterling transitioned into the Seismic Program Coordinator role when the position opened. He knew as much about earthquakes as any good structural engineer in Alaska does. It's part of working here, he said. You need to know how to design for earthquakes. 
 
The day of the earthquake itself, both men were home – a flex day for Sterling, a sick day for Brian. When the shaking started, Brian instinctively grabbed his wife and newborn daughter and headed for what his engineer brain knew was the safest part of their Eagle River home, structurally. 
 
In Anchorage, relaxing on his couch, Sterling said he realized the potential enormity of the quake "about five seconds in, when the shaking didn't stop." 
 
After ensuring his wife and child's safety, Brian said, "My second thought was about what was going on with the mainline and where was the earthquake in relation to that." 
 
Because that's the thing seismically minded folks will explain, is it isn't so much the magnitude as the location of the quake – in this case, the proximity to TAPS. The Denali Fault quake in 2002 was a 7.9 and struck directly beneath the pipeline, causing minor damage, shutting down the line for 66 hours and 33 minutes. 
 
This one was much farther away, and after a precautionary shutdown and inspection, TAPS returned to operation that same day. 
 
That didn't mean the work was over for Brian and Sterling. 
 
Sterling is involved with both the Structural Engineers Association of Alaska and the Alaska Seismic Hazard Safety Commission. He's even coordinated training between the two organizations aimed at earthquake response. He reached out to colleagues and state officials, coordinated with his Alyeska supervisors, and within days of the quake, Sterling and Brian were on their way to survey state owned and leased infrastructure. 
 
Remember in the days following the quake, how buildings were labeled with green, yellow and red labels? Green meant facilities were OK. Yellow signaled damages, but in limited areas. Red condemned buildings as dangerous for potential collapse and continued occupancy. 
 
Working in teams, Sterling and Brian visited numerous facilities in the area, including storage warehouses and office buildings, assigning these colored labels. 
 
Sterling even got to inspect the Goose Creek Correctional Center, where cracks snaked through concrete walls, alarming the confined inmates. 
 
"It's a concrete building, so there were cracks everywhere," Sterling said. "We spent part of the time there doing structural engineering, and part of the time doing therapy and telling people, 'It will be OK.'"
 
Brian agreed. While he found himself in some spaces that, to him, were clearly safe and unscathed, folks needed to hear that – and found particular solace hearing it from a professional. 
 
"A lot of those folks, it meant a lot to them to see us walking around, looking at things closely," Brian said. "It meant a lot to hear a structural engineer say, 'There's no sign of fatigue or overstress, there's no sign of imminent collapse.'" 
 
Just as TAPS withstood the Nov. 30 event, Sterling and others were validated to see seismic retrofit work at Alyeska's Operations Control Center in Anchorage proved out, as the building weathered the quake. 
 
The earthquake also proved an opportunity for Sterling to run through all Alyeska's earthquake procedures and adjust where needed. 
 
One example: Alyeska is now looking at using the software that's used to call out employees to staff Incident Management Teams to perform welfare checks for large groups of employees during emergencies. Work is also continuing to launch a new earthquake management and monitoring system later this year. 

TAPS celebrates International Women's Day

Celebrating International Women's Day by spotlighting some of the hardworking and talented women on TAPS! #InternationalWomensDay#TAPSPride

Alyeska’s VanWingerden featured in API campaign

Operations Director Klint VanWingerden explains how our organization is optimizing operations and applying new technologies to current work as part of the American Petroleum Institute's (API) new State of American Energy 2019 campaign: We are America's Generation Energy. Klint is featured in a State of American Energy 2019 video, an annual report, a profile story and social media.

Klint said he recognizes the impact the oil industry has had on his family, education, career and even his outdoor hobbies outside of work like snow machine racing. This fall, he welcomed an API film crew to the OCC to see how the pipeline is monitored and brought the crew the track to his home in the Mat-Su Valley, where he talked about his work, family and fun.

This week, VanWingerden is in Washington D.C. to be a part of API's State of American Energy 2019 kickoff event, where they debut the new video and report.

Read Kint's profile and learn more about his work along TAPS, how pipeline work is being optimized and the training he's doing to train for the Iron Dog, click here.

For more information on API's 2019 campaign, visit their website here.

Yuletide on the Yukon: Santa visits Rampart

Christmas came early in Rampart this year when Santa and his elf arrived by way of Alyeska helicopter on Sunday, Dec. 16.
 
Rampart is a small community on the Yukon River, 85 miles northwest of Fairbanks, and strategically close to the Yukon Response Base. Approximately 14 residents play an integral role on the Village Response Team, there to support TAPS crews in the event of an emergency.
 
Tim Smith, Materials Coordinator, dressed as Santa and delivered presents to 23 kids with the help of Jeannette Stepovich, Planner/Scheduler, who was dressed as Santa's elf. Dozens of TAPS employees donated the gifts or money and others volunteered to shop and then wrap each gift.
 
"The generosity kept on flowing," said Jeannette. "The warehouse started raising money and taking donations and soon there was enough for each kid to have at least two gifts."
 
Ramey Brooks, PS6 P&CM, managed logistics on the ground, coordinating with the residents of Rampart and the folks at Maritime Helicopters for the holiday event. Ramey arrived with a helicopter laden with fresh fruit, snacks, juice and an assortment of Christmas treats baked by Patty Miller, one of the cooks at PS6.
 
"Jeannette and I handed out the gifts but you can't pull something like that off without the help of a lot of special volunteers and generous people," said Tim.

Ahtna, Alyeska renew Friendship Agreement

This week was a time for reflection and celebration of a special partnership as leaders from Ahtna, Inc. and Alyeska gathered to renew the longstanding Friendship Agreement between the two organizations. In addition to the signing, Ahtna board members and Alyeska leadership discussed the agreement, current matters, and upcoming projects. Alyeska President Tom Barrett and Ahtna, Inc. President Michelle Anderson completed the official signing of the agreement.
 
"Alyeska has a special and enduring relationship with Ahtna, and we appreciate that they share their traditional lands with us and bring innovative solutions from the exceptional employees along TAPS," said Barrett. "As our company brings innovation forward for the next 40 years, our relationship with Ahtna will not change, but only grow stronger in partnership." 
 
Ahtna and Alyeska have worked together since 1970, and continue to find ways to collaborate and develop opportunities for Ahtna shareholders along TAPS. Several Ahtna shareholders were recently recognized for their work on TAPS by the Atigun Award program; Athna workers received an Honorable Mention for Teamwork in their efforts with the G029 Workpad Mitigation at TAPS Milepost 652.5.

Advanced Fast Water Response Training/Exercise

Alyeska held an Advanced Fast Water Response Training/Exercise on June 25-29, along the Salcha and Tanana Rivers. The five-day Advanced Fast Water Course was a highly challenging training designed to focus on the most difficult portion of response in fast water: containment and control actions. Due to the length and intensity of the Advanced Fast Water Responder Course, it pushes responders to a higher level of skill development by fostering team concepts and leadership experience, using specific tactics and strategies within Alyeska’s Oil Spill Response Training Program.  
 
Participants came from TAPS pump/response stations, SERVS, Houston Contracting Company, Ahtna, Alaska Clean Seas (ACS), Rampart Village Responders, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from Alaska, Idaho and Oregon, and Clean Harbors OSRO of New Jersey. 
 
 
Training exercise instructors were: Earl Rose, James Pence, Ben Pennington, Steve Hood, Walt Henry and Gary Breen. 
 
Some of the facts of the training include: approximately 70 participants, 12 OSCP trailers, 15 vessels, a helicopter and a drone.

Drone use evolves on TAPS

Constant inspection and surveillance of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System infrastructure is necessary for flawless, safe operations. But investigating remote stretches and hard-to-reach areas of the 800-mile pipeline and its supporting facilities, sometimes in difficult conditions, can take countless labor hours, and incur high costs and even higher safety risks. 
 
In recent years, a group of visionary thinkers with leading-edge ideas at Alyeska, among TAPS contractors and beyond introduced an emerging technology that made the work safer, more efficient and more accurate: unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones. This modern revamp of age-old TAPS tasks earned the group this year’s Atigun Award for Innovation. A group of 45 people from three organizations shares the honor.
 
“This wasn’t an award that recognizes just a few people or one organization,” said Vernen Lee, Merrick Project Manager and Alyeska Survey Contractor. “If you look at the recipients, this was a TAPS-wide effort.”
 
Alyeska and TAPS contractors use drones to monitor remote streams and creeks, get closer looks at difficult and dangerous-to-access infrastructure and landscapes, and capture data at new levels of accuracy. What used to be cumbersome work, usually produced in helicopters by numerous surveillance crew members, is now done with relatively small and lightweight drones with a few operators standing safely on the ground.
 
In 2017, TAPS workers utilized a drone to diagnose a troublesome and mysterious problem around a fiery, 106 foot-tall PS1 flare tip. Instead of flying a crew in a helicopter around the flare or even shutting down the flare for closer inspection, teams used a high-quality camera mounted on a drone to get a clear and safe view that provided the perspective and data to make a replacement decision.
 
Drone surveillance and 3D mapping now provide the accurate measurements that have eliminated the risk of workers climbing onto riprap and gravel to obtain inventory data. Drone footage also provided the first as-built 3D drawing and terrain map of Gunnysack Creek in November 2017. The HD topographic mapping allowed engineers to analyze and implement a plan to further protect buried pipeline. 
 
“Safety is the most important benefit,” said Jacques Cloutier, Alyeska Civil Survey Support Engineer and a drone implementation team lead. “Less exposure to the elements can reduce potential for injury on difficult walking surfaces and dangerous heights, and even limit the amount of time workers have to spend outside in cold temperatures.” 
 
Lee added that drones help workers spend less time climbing ladders and scaffolding, and using cranes. Increased drone use also reduces helicopter flights, which drops operating costs and minimizes related safety risks.
 
***
 
The concept of drone use on TAPS started in 2015 as a group of employee hobbyists were developing their piloting and video skills. They formed an informal committee to examine potential benefits and worked through federal regulations about UAS use by following models used around Alaska by other companies, including BP on the North Slope.
 
Successes of drone use and their imaging systems were instant and groundbreaking: they provided new perspectives of the visible spectrum, allowing Alyeska to detect and address issues sooner than in the past. 
 
“The possibility of more accurate data collection will ultimately lead to more informed and better decision making along TAPS,” added Cloutier. 
 
That accuracy in surveying and site mapping, as well as successes like the flare tip diagnosis, have sparked requests from Alyeska departments on how drones can reduce risk and increase efficiency on a variety of other projects.
 
Cloutier said Alyeska is just scratching the surface of the potential work that drones can provide on TAPS. He has already used them to inspect bridge crossings for potential ground movement at the South Bank of the Yukon River during May 2018. Cloutier is confident they can provide near real-time ROW and infrastructure surveillance that can keep an eye on valves, pipes and leak detection, as well as support security. 
 
“Alyeska gave us the opportunity to perform and evaluate the data over time,” said Lee. 
 
Currently, drones must be flown within sight of the operators. But, UAS federal regulation may be changing in the near future that would make allowances for organizations, including TAPS. Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and Beyond Visual Line of Sight remotely piloted aerial system operations will expand the range of safer, more effective observation. And a new partnership with UAF could further increase the use of drones along TAPS and other industries.
 
Merrick’s drones already have a full schedule of work lined up this summer, including one notable project: working with Alyeska’s technical spill contingency teams during yearly containment drills. During a live drill, a drone will capture video of response effort teams so that footage can be used for post-drill review and areas for improvement.  
 
Lee echoed Cloutier’s confidence for drone use.
 
“People realize that this will be a game-changer in how Alyeska performs future work in the field,” Lee said. “After testing the concept on the flare tip and mapping several parts of TAPS, it is clear how reliable and trustworthy the technology is.”
 
***
 
The individuals being recognized with this Atigun Award are: Alyeska’s Alex Lai, Casey Ahkvaluk, Brittany Barnes, Daryl Beeter, Tom Betz, Nate Carson, Jacques Cloutier, Monte Geerdes, Verne Griffis, Mike Hale, Lorena Hegdal, Keith Hoffman, Phil Huelskoetter, Scott Iverslie, Lorraine Maroney, Janna Miller, Scout Monegan, Joseph Nash, Shaune O’Neil, David Ratky, Bob Stirling, Jeffrey Streit, Renier Swart, Rick Weinrick and Vol Williams; Merrick’s Doug Baum, Amber Castano, Travis Cronin, Joe Donohue, Andrew Garett, Allen Holt, William Hudson, Greg Johnson, Tim Koerber, Ben Kramer, Vernen Lee, Patrick Long, Diane Morelli, Shain Osgood, Geoffrey Preston, David Tassie, Sam Toms, Chris Velez and Scott Wood; and CASI’s Kent Freem

800 reach the finish line at Pump 1's Fun Run

Runners and walkers joined together at Pump Station 1 July 17 and 31 to participate in the 23rd annual 5K Fun Run along the pipeline.
 
North Slope workers don't often get the chance to come together for outdoor activity or take in all the views of the pipeline and the tundra that runs alongside the ROW. Active-wear is not necessary to participate in the race, and some prefer to keep their steel-toes and FR gear on during their walk or jog.
 
With annual events come annual traditions. As always, T-shirts with an artistic view of TAPS Milepost 0 were given to participants. Pink the Pig made another appearance as the run's mascot and brought a new friend, the "$mart Pig," to join in this year's festivities. Light snacks were shared at the finish line, along with a strong sense of TAPS pride and event volunteer support.
 
 
New activities were introduced, as well. To further promote healthy choices and test everyone's knowledge of TAPS, trivia questions were posted along the route for athletes to contemplate until answers were revealed at the finish line.
 
"For the crew at PS 1, it isn't about the T-shirt but around showing pride in TAPS," said Hal Eppley, P/L Field Material Coordinator and long-time event coordinator. "Workers on the North Slope look forward to this fun run each year, and continue to support the event."
   
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