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Fire Out at Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Oil Resumes

by Phil Helsel /  / Updated 
Image: The Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station
The Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks is shown in this file photo. The 800-mile Trans-Alaska pipeline carries Alaska North Slope crude oil from Prudhoe Bay south to Valdez.AL GRILLO / AP File

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The Trans-Alaska Pipeline has resumed operations after a fire at a pumping station near the Arctic Circle prompted officials to shut it down Wednesday, the company that runs the system said Thursday.

The pipeline, which transports around 545,000 barrels of oil — or just under 23 million gallons — a day resumed operations at 11:30 a.m. (3:30 p.m. ET), Alyeska Pipeline Service Company said in a statement.

An employee spotted flames from a pressure and vacuum vent about 2:30 p.m. local time Wednesday (6:30 p.m. ET) at the pipeline's pump station in the Coldfoot area near the Arctic Circle, and the pipeline was shut down, the company said.

Image: Trans-Alaska Pipeline
This photo from the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company shows pump station 5, where flames from a vent prompted the shut down of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Wednesday, April 20, 2014.Alyeska Pipeline Service Company

A firefighting truck doused the vent with fire retardant at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday and thermal imaging equipment detected no flare-ups, the company said.

The pipeline was restarted at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at a reduced rate of around 400,000 barrels per day, and the company said it was returning the pipeline to full operation.

Shutting down the pipeline due to a safety occasion is rare, company spokesperson Michelle Egan said.

Oil began pumping through the pipeline before the fire was put out partly due to business concerns, because there’s a limited amount of time North Slope producers have before being forced to winterize and shut down wells, she said.

Egan said the flames were spotted at one of seven vents at the 40-foot-tall, 170-foot-wide tank. No injuries were reported.

"We knew we could do it without increasing risk, and that we also would be able to put the fire out," Egan said. The pipeline spans 800 miles, from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

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