Denali National Park, Alaska: Lindblad Expeditions

Arriving in Fairbanks

Sunday, July 15, 2008

After spending a week aboard the MS Sea Lion and cruising the Inside Passage, we arrive in Fairbanks, the hub for Alaska’s Interior and Arctic regions. Over dinner, we meet our guide, Don, and the other guests for the upcoming adventure.

Although tired, we take the offer to see a small part of the Alaska Pipeline 15 minutes North of Fairbanks. The 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is one of the largest pipeline systems in the world. It stretches from Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, through rugged and beautiful terrain, to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port in North America. Since pipeline startup in 1977, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the operator of TAPS, has successfully transported over 15 billion barrels of oil.

When the Pipeline System was built, designers and engineers faced a special problem: Alaska's permafrost. The solution: a little over half of the 800 miles of pipes run above ground. Specially designed vertical supports were placed in drilled holes or driven into the ground. In warm permafrost and other areas where heat might cause undesirable thawing, the supports contain two each, 2-inch pipes called "heat pipes," containing anhydrous ammonia, which vaporizes below ground, rises and condenses above-ground, removing ground heat whenever the ground temperature exceeds the temperature of the air. Heat is transferred through the walls of the heat pipes to aluminum radiators atop the pipes*.

Alaska Pipeline

Alaska Pipeline

Alaska Pipeline Alaska Pipeline

Alaska Pipeline

Click here for interesting Pipeline Facts.

* Source: Alyeska Pipe

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Other photographic diaries: The Island of Crete | Galapagos | The Inside Passage, Alaska | Denali National Park, Alaska | Costa Rica | Peru | Australia

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