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according Jim Weeks. A long-chained hydrocarbon polymer. None. with three operating and one spare. perhaps. is better known than a clever innovation cooked up in the chemical laboratories of Atlantic Richfield Co. has operated the trans-Alaska oil pipeline with the assistance of numerous technologies. long-chain molecules composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. or non- saturated carbon with very large. which was built to handle 1. ³It gave TAPS a 30 percent increase in capacity without adding pipes or pumps or anything else.´ Weeks said in a recent interview.500-horsepower gas turbine. two years after startup. Each of the pumps was to be driven by a 14. DRA was first injected into the pipeline on July 1. DRA has the consistency of a gooey.5 million barrels per day of crude. 1979. using 12 pump stations. In the late 1980s when oil flow through the pipeline climbed to a rate of more than 2 million bpd. DRA is a poly-alpha-olefin. a senior ARCO manager in Alaska in the 1980s. or DRA. called drag reducing agent. clinging gel resembling rubber cement. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. Weeks said injections of DRA made the higher throughput possible without additional construction. But the story of Alyeska¶s love affair with DRA dates back to 1979. The pipeline was initially designed to move 2 million bpd of oil. Technically. Each pump station could accommodate four mainline pumps. It proved to be a particularly important development for the pipeline.#    Over three decades. .

Maximum capacity without DRA was slightly more than 1. which had an active ingredient that required it to be dissolved in kerosene or diesel. ³I¶d say a rough estimate of the cost savings in facility construction from DRA would be approximately $300 million. with two pumps each. operations engineering supervisor. Malvick said the original gel-like consistency. up to the equivalent of 18. 8 and 10. 4. ³DRA use.1 million bpd of oil and eliminated the need for eight additional operating pumps and gas turbines. 9 and 12. 3. when injected at strategic locations.15 million bpd. as throughput climbed to 1. 7 and 11. Handling it was akin to manipulating an extremely sticky batch of melting mozzarella cheese. that would be in excess of $1 billion. Phase 3 was intended to add a fourth pump at pump stations 1. ³In today¶s dollars. .2 million bpd. DRA required a significant learning curve at Alyeska.´ he said. Instead. with three pumps each and installed a 3rd pump at pump stations 1. with four pumps each to accommodate a boost in oil flow to 2 million bpd. which allowed for pumping 600.The pump stations were designed to be built in phases. and the company shelved plans for building pump stations 5 and 11.000 horses. in 1977 dollars. Even without the extra pumps and pump stations originally envisioned. but the stations¶ gas turbines were modified to produce more power. pump stations 2 and 7 were built with just two pumps each. testing of DRA proved it to be a viable alternative to mechanical horsepower in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline system. Phase 1 included building pump stations 1. 4. Engineers and technicians conducted an ongoing series of tests through the years to assess the substance¶s range of capabilities. 4. Phase 2 added pump stations 6. 9. 3. 3. 8 and 10. 8. and to bring on line pump stations 2. That fourth (spare) pump was never installed at any of the pump stations. 5. Before Phase 3 could be implemented. according to Mike Malvick.4 million bpd. 6. As a result. 10 and 12. DRA enabled the pipeline to handle peak oil flow of 2.000 bpd of crude. allowed 28 pumps to pump 2.´     Despite its efficacy. was very difficult to use. Phase 3 never happened.´ Malvick said.

³If you spilled it. One problem with DRA was it would lose its desirable properties once it passed through a pump station. (# $ . Thus. batches of the agent had to be injected in the pipeline at regular intervals to keep the oil flowing smoothly. the clean-up tools of choice were a shovel and a long pair of shears.³If you dipped up a handful of DRA. it would come away with a strand still attached to the batch that would get thinner and thinner but would never break.´ This feature made DRA ideal for smoothing away turbulence as crude and natural gas liquids rushed through the pipe.´ Malvick said. Weeks said.

but in 1995. ³We started using it for horsepower management.´ Malvick said. As North Slope petroleum production declined. and DRA acts like a spring or shock absorber. The discovery led to .´ Malvick said. and they¶ve taken the market by storm. ³We¶ve not seen quality degradation in the crude oil.% % & Malvick says the turbulent flow of crude in the pipeline chews up energy.´ Malvick said. injected and cleaned up than the original gel. the company drafted the substance into a different service. So they don¶t make the gel anymore.´ Another key development was the success DRA manufacturers had in converting the substance into slurry products that can be more easily transported. ³The slurries appeared in the late 1990s. We took the same concept and went in a different direction. ³DRA is also injected into some pipelines for refined products in the Lower 48 with no detrimental impact. One factor in Alyeska¶s willingness to continue using DRA was its lack of lasting effects on Alaska North Slope petroleum liquids flowing through the pipeline. reducing turbulence and thus. the energy needed to move the oil to Valdez. Alyeska found that using DRA was more economical than running existing pump stations. %#  Alyeska used DRA to aid crude throughput in the 1980s and 1990s.

Alyeska is still using DRA. then we shut down the pump station and inject DRA.´ he said.shutdowns of Pump Station 8 in 1995. ³Depending on the cost of electricity. Pump Station 6 in 1997 and Pump Station 12 in 2003 or 2004. Malvick said. which called for electrifying the pipeline¶s remaining pump stations. ³When DRA is cheaper than fuel plus station maintenance plus personnel. like earlier moves to use DRA. though now it figures prominently in the company¶s strategic reconfiguration process. Pump Station 10 in 1996. The decision.  . we may choose to inject DRA rather than run our pumps so hard and save on electricity consumption. Today.´ Malvick said. Injection of DRA is allowing Alyeska to shut down or scale back power usage at pump stations 7 and 9. hinges on a simple equation.