The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Employees at Alyeska left in limbo until November after word on layoffs

Company president pens letter to officials announcing 10 percent staff reduction

 

September 12, 2018



The company that runs the pipeline is reducing its workforce by ten percent.

Tom Barrett, president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (APSC) sent a letter to Governor Bill Walker, State Legislators and Commissioners on Sept. 4, informing them of Alyeska’s plans to reduce its workforce by 10 percent.

This would result in a layoff of roughly 130 individuals according to the letter, which also said Alyeska plans to notify all employees affected by the cuts in early November and its reorganization is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2019.

Barrett said in the letter the overall size of the workforce will shrink, impacting jobs at all levels of the organization in the state and in the field, including Valdez.

“Going into our fifth decade of service, we are simplifying the maintenance processes to better identify high-priority work and apply risk-based decision criteria to complete that urgent work, as well as other maintenance work, more quickly and efficiently,” Barrett said.

To achieve the cuts, according to the letter, APSC will realign into three divisions including Operations and Maintenance, Engineering and Risk, and Chief Financial Officers.

However, it is not clear yet how the job cuts will be split between the different offices around Alaska and in the field.

“These changes will directly and indirectly impact most jobs on TAPS,” Barrett said. “Many jobs will be modified, and some eliminated, at Alyeska and in some contractor companies. This will have negative impacts for some individuals and create new opportunities for others. It will affect personnel at all levels of the organization, and at Anchorage, Fairbanks, Valdez and field locations.”

The letter states that the goal of TAPS owners and APSC is to keep their assets technical and economically viable for decades into the future.

“To address these goals, in 2017 we launched a strategic initiative to answer the question ‘What actions will be necessary to ensure TAPS is technically and economically viable for the next 40 years?’” Barrett said.

This initiative led to plans to replace Crowley with Edison Chouest earlier this summer which included both new tugboats and more efficient skimmers.

For some, this transition created reservations.

In January, Prince William Sound Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council, usually refered to as RCAC, unanimously passed a resolution stating Alyeska should require Edison Chouest’s crews to train in all weather conditions they’re expected to operate in. Alyeska flatly rejected the request - its positions is that training in rough weather would put crew in danger unnecessarily.

Louder criticism came from Crowley’s workers whom are union members whereas Edison Chouest’s employees are not.

Kate Dugan, spokesperson for Alyeska in Valdez, said that the changes are built on the long-term future rather than the short term.

“We want to be the most efficient and most effective company for the next forty years,” Dugan said during a telephone interview. “This is an internal drive to do our job better to be the best pipeline we can be.”

The decline of oil that is pumped through the pipeline is a major reason for the reorganization according to the company. Not only has less oil resulted in less profits but it has created other issues for Alyeska.

During the peak of the pipeline, over two million barrels was pushed through the pipeline daily. That number has now decreased. During the summer of 2018, 490,000 barrels arrive in Valdez per day at times and in the winter that number is 530,000 - 540,000 barrels. The difference is because maintenance is easier to accomplish during the summer months according to Dugan.

When less oil is moving through the pipeline, it takes longer to reach Valdez and the slowdown causes a larger wax buildup, requiring more “pig” maintenance. Additionally, the lower temperature that results from the delay can cause ice crystals to build up which puts the pipeline at risk of corrosion and potential rupture.

Under the Trump Administration, expansion for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has sought to increase the amount of oil, but bringing the oil to the pipeline could take years.

Under Federal Law, if the Trans Alaska Pipeline System is shut down it will be required to be fully disassembled and removed.

President Donald Trump was unavailable to make comment on the changes Alyeska is making nor did he Tweet about it.

 

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