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The Alaska Pipeline
Timeline: Alaska Pipeline Chronology

1959 - 1972 | 1973 - 2005  


February 9: The appeals court partially overturns Judge Hart's ruling. The court says it has no jurisdiction over the right-of-way limits in the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Congress will have to grant authorization to allow a right of way more than fifty feet wide. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company's plan includes a 100-foot-wide right of way.

July 17: With a vote of 50 to 49, the Senate narrowly passes the Gravel Amendment which declares that the Department of the Interior has fulfilled all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, allowing Alyeska to move forward. Vice President Spiro Agnew casts the deciding vote.

October 6: On the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, Egyptian forces attack Israel, while at the same time Syrian troops assault the Golan Heights in a surprise offensive. With help from the United States, Israel succeeds in reversing the Arab gains. The clash will have repercussions for the U.S. oil supply.

Pumps closed due to the gasoline shortage October 17: The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) strikes back against the United States and the Netherlands for their support of Israel in the war. OPEC imposes an oil embargo. Overnight, the price of a barrel of oil rises from $3 to over $5. Gas at the pumps will soon rise from 30 cents per gallon to $1.20, and drivers will wait in long lines to fill up their tanks.

November 16: In direct response to the oil crisis, President Nixon signs the Trans Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act into law. Nixon introduces "Project Independence" in a televised speech: "Throughout history, America has made great sacrifices of blood and also treasure to achieve and maintain its independence. In the last third of this century, our independence will depend on maintaining and achieving self-sufficiency in energy."

December: The price of a barrel of oil rises to $11.65.


A sharp bend in the Yukon River about three miles downstream from the point where the  pipeline will cross the river. January 3: The Department of the Interior grants Alyeska a federal permit for right of way, allowing construction to start.

April 29: Construction begins on a haul road that will link the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay. Truckers will use the road to transport goods to the North Slope as well as to camps along the way.

September 29: The haul road is finished. It is the first American highway to cross the Arctic Circle.


March 27: Construction begins on the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Workers bury the first section of pipe beneath the Tonsina River. The pipe floats back to the top and then is re-buried.

July: Alyeska suffers its first scandal. A subcontractor is found cutting corners by falsifying weld x-rays. Thirty thousand eight hundred welds are in question. The x-rays are used to inspect all of the girth welds around the pipe's circumference. It will take Alyeska a year to check all the x-rays and to repair the sub-par welds.


December 6: The last piece of pipe is laid down near Thompson Pass, where welders and laborers have had to scale near-vertical mountain walls to install pipe.


North Slope District, Town of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska May 31: Welders complete the last of the 100,000 girth welds near Pump Station 3. The final price tag for the pipeline is over $8 billion dollars -- nearly nine times the original estimate. Much of the money has gone to building the pipeline to be environmentally safer than was originally planned.

June 20: The first oil flows from Pump Station 1 down the pipeline.

July 28: The first oil reaches the Valdez Marine Terminal.

August 1: The tanker ARCO Juneau departs Valdez with the first shipment of North Slope crude oil.


January 22: After 2-1/2 years of pipeline operations, the one-billionth barrel of oil arrives at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

Jimmy Carter at the podium during a press conference December 2: President Jimmy Carter signs in to law the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The statute protects over 104 million acres of federal lands in Alaska, effectively doubling the size of the country's national park and refuge system.


March: Oil output peaks on the Trans-Alaska pipeline. For the entire month of March, the line transports 2.1 million barrels of oil a day. The amount of oil subsequently pumped out of the ground will decrease at a steady rate.


Workers spray the shoreline in the oil spill clean up March 24: The tanker Exxon Valdez fails to steer back in to the shipping lane after trying to avoid an iceberg. Twenty five miles south of Valdez, the tanker runs aground on Bligh Reef, spilling over 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. The spill threatens an abundance of wildlife: salmon, birds, whales, sea otters, and bald eagles. Exxon will spend more than $2.1 billion dollars over the next few years to clean up the mess.


March 5: The 10 billionth barrel of oil arrives in Valdez. In the late 1960s, geologists had estimated the North Slope would produce no more than that amount. They had underestimated.


May: The pipe transports less than one million barrels a day. Alyeska engineers think it will stay at this volume for the next 10 years.


June 20: Alyeska celebrates the 25th anniversary of pipeline operations.

November 3: A 7.9 magnitude earthquake rocks the pipeline where it intersects with the Denali Fault. Several vertical support members, the structures that hold the pipe above ground, are damaged, but the pipeline remains intact.

November 26: The State of Alaska renews the Trans-Alaska pipeline's right of way permit for another 30 years.


December: The 15 billionth barrel of oil leaves Prudhoe Bay.

1959 - 1972 | 1973 - 2005  

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