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The Alaska Pipeline
Pipelines & Aqueducts

Some resources can be moved from point to point by truck, train, boat or plane. But these options were impossible for the North Slope oil discovered above the Arctic Circle, hundreds of miles from the Alaskan road system in one of the world's harshest weather zones.

The solution? A pipeline -- a stationary, 800-mile-long tube dedicated to delivering oil to a shipping terminal in the year-round port of Valdez.

Pipeline-like transports are not new. From ancient times, engineers have designed stone, concrete or steel structures for moving resources to where they are needed. Roman aqueducts, built to carry water to cities, are probably the most famous ancient systems. There are over 200,000 miles of oil pipeline in the U.S. alone, along with natural gas pipelines, aqueducts, and other dedicated resource transports.

Compare a few notable pipelines and aqueducts or show all.

Category Tranport System One Tranport System Two
Project: Trans-Alaska Pipeline California Aqueduct
Location: Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska (see map) Sacramento River delta to Southern California farmlands and the city of Los Angeles
Commodity: Crude Oil Water
Length: 800 miles
800 miles
444 miles
444 miles
Construction Dates: 1974-1977 1960-1973
Fast Facts:
  • Largest water-conveyance system in the world
  • System includes 20 pumping stations, 130 hydroelectric dams, 100 dams and flow control structures
Status/Future Plans:
  • Delivered over 2 million barrels/day at its peak in 1988
  • Transported an average of 890,000 barrels/day in 2005
  • Amount of oil left in North Slope is unknown
  • Supplies millions of acre-feet of water to southern California annually

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