clouds-main

Delivering excellence

header
Media Resources

Unmanned aircraft makes beyond-line-of-sight history

Read the full press release from UAF here

A team led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks has completed the country’s first FAA-approved true beyond-visual-line-of-sight domestic flight of an unmanned aircraft system under the small UAS rule.
 
The flight is a step toward gaining more routine Federal Aviation Administration approval of commercial beyond-visual-line-of-sight unmanned aircraft flights. Such approval could allow organizations to use unmanned aircraft to monitor pipelines and other infrastructure in Alaska and the rest of the United States.
 
Operators from the university’s Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration flew a Skyfront Perimeter long range hybrid-electric unmanned aircraft 3.87 miles along the Trans Alaska Pipeline System corridor, starting at a location near the Chatanika River on the Elliott Highway.
 
During the flight, the team used onboard and ground-based detection systems, instead of human observers, to detect and avoid other aircraft in the airspace. Those included Iris Automation’s Casia, an onboard collision avoidance technology, and a 5-nautical-mile system consisting of eight ground-based Echodyne radars, which provided aviation radar coverage along the flight path. The detect-and-avoid systems prevent an unmanned aircraft from colliding with a manned aircraft. They will be key to the FAA approving the use of unmanned aircraft beyond the visual line of sight.
 
“The ability to use UAVs for surveillance in remote areas of the pipeline increases the tools at our disposal to operate TAPS more reliably and safely and better protect Alaska’s environment. This innovative step forward will advance safe performance not just in our industry, but in multiple disciplines and workspaces across the country,” said Tom Barrett, president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which operates the trans-Alaska pipeline system.
 
The flights were a part of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, a national initiative from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House. The IPP was created by a presidential memorandum to help integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace at or below 400 feet, and find ways to safely fly unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight, carry out night operations and operate over people. All of these are currently restricted under FAA regulations.
 
“The Integration Pilot Program is helping us advance the safe, secure and reliable integration of drones into the national airspace,” said FAA Acting Administrator Daniel K. Elwell. “This important milestone in Alaska gets us closer to that goal.”
 
Iris Automation CEO and co-founder Alexander Harmsen said, “This is the first time that detect-and-avoid technology is approved by an aviation authority as reliable enough to allow for BVLOS drone operations. We’re grateful for the FAA’s continued push to recognize and understand how these technologies will enable the successful and safe integration of UAS into our lives and businesses.”
The Alaska IPP goals include enabling routine monitoring flights of both the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and Hilcorp Alaska’s Swanson River Oil Pipeline, and delivering medical supplies to remote areas. The partners also have an overall goal of enabling operations beyond the line of sight across Alaska 24 hours a day, all year long.
 
“The integration of unmanned aircraft into America’s skies just took another important step toward realization,” said Cathy Cahill, director of ACUASI, which is part of the UAF Geophysical Institute. “These first flights demonstrated that new technology can provide a route toward safe beyond-visual-line-of-sight operation of unmanned aircraft in Alaska. We want to ensure the safety of manned aviation while opening new opportunities for unmanned aircraft cargo deliveries to villages, monitoring of infrastructure, mammal surveys and a host of other missions of use to Alaskans.”

Marine services transition group earns Teamwork honor

The Alyeska employees responsible for the marine services transition can point to many factors in their ultimate success.
 
For example, innovation: they influenced the construction of a sleek fleet of purpose-built ships with the best available technology. Or, their environment focus: protecting Prince William Sound constantly underscored decisions. Or perhaps, their shared safety lens: how the team constantly reviewed and reworked plans to deliver the transition responsibly, without harm. 
 
But when the final ships cruised into Valdez at last, one recurring word floated to the surface, a summation of all the massive effort following more than two years of diligence and focus: teamwork.  
 
The stunning volume of collaboration involving more than 80 TAPS employees working together for more than two years on the transition has netted this hard-working and committed group of professionals the 2018 Atigun Award for Teamwork. 
 
It’s an award that historically has honored everything from significant projects to compelling leadership. In this case, the award goes to a cross-functional team of highly motivated, devoted, and aligned employees whose shared vision and values helped them deliver a project that was massive in scope, complex in its components, and about as high-stakes as any work on TAPS that’s ever come to pass. 
 
“I developed amazing relationships across the Alyeska teams that I will cherish forever,” said Dawn McQuay, Contracting Officer. “The respect that I have for my fellow teammates is something that I don’t take lightly; they spent many long nights away from home and their families, eating pizza and working through piles of data and spreadsheets. Scenario after scenario had to be proved out, we had to get it right. There was no easy day.” 
 
The effort to successfully design, construct and incorporate Edison Chouest Offshore vessels into SERVS’ operations required personnel from across Alyeska and far beyond. From the earliest contractual steps to the eventual arrival of a new fleet of barges and tugs, the work was unending and far-reaching.
 
TAPS employees from multiple teams took on accountabilities so that the group came to represent a microcosm of TAPS itself. There were people with strong finance and contractual backgrounds, mariners from SERVS, engineers, contingency planners, safety specialists, lawyers, communications experts, and more. External experts contributed too, with representation from TAPS Mariners, Owners, pilots from Southwest Alaska Pilots Association, and input from key stakeholders. 
 
“I am proud of how everyone worked together and how we took an end goal of a successful contract transition and figured out how we were going to get there in the allotted timeframe, then meeting our goal, on time, despite all of the curveballs thrown at us along the way,” said Gwen Gavin, Marine Transition Training Coordinator. “And everyone remained focused, professional and even polite.” 
 
Truly, it exceeded polite. Transition team members said the group shared a sense of personal ownership and commitment to the work that was foundational to their cohesiveness, and success. Many spent weeks and months of travel time around Alaska and far beyond, inspecting the new ships, building new relationships and program components with the vendor, and nurturing trust and credibility with critical stakeholders.
 
“This took commitment beyond the promise of a paycheck,” said Kate Dugan, Valdez Communications Manager. “Transition team members had a deeply held belief that we were doing the right thing to protect Prince William Sound. In the end, the transition was a once-in-a-career event for many of us, and one that everyone carries a great deal of ownership and pride in following reflection on its successful implementation.” 
 
Over the course of two years, the transition team delivered on-time arrival of new vessels and crews, and successfully managed outgoing Crowley crews and the final demobilization of Crowley tugs. 
 
The process touched nearly every TAPS workgroup and included construction oversight, complex contract negotiations, project management, high-stakes regulatory interaction, must-succeed training development and execution, high-profile stakeholder and media communication.
 
And in summer 2018, the new fleet of purpose-built, technologically advanced oil spill prevention and response vessels and trained personnel arrived in Prince William Sound. 
 
“This work required a great deal of courage and connection,” said Mike Day, Transition Manager. “A system view and teamwork can’t exist without trust from the outside world of regulators, stakeholders, and the people who live here. It can’t work in Alyeska without trust between leadership and teams, and enough communication to glue those parts into a whole. We had to earn each other’s trust every day, and still do even though this project is over. It is an honor to work alongside everyone that made this improvement."
 
The 2018 Atigun winners for Teamwork are: Andres Morales; Dan Flodin; Tom Stokes; Michelle Egan; Julia Redington; Scott Hicks; Andy Sorensen; Mike Day; Jennifer Bleicher; Joe Gibson; Dawn McQuay; Robyn Brune; Gwen Gavin; Dennis Fleming; Kate Dugan; Josh Niva; Monty Morgan; Rosie Tapp; Marina Sapelnik; Chuck Strub; Jay Hoffman; Pam Chenier; Tom Brady; Jan Shifflett; Sue Wood; Mike Patrick; Bill Roach; Nate Smith; John May; Tia Anderson; Martin Parsons; Betty Hoffman; Dwight Morrison; Sam Swatzell; Ross Nease; Steve Johns; Kate Goudreau; Steve Hood; Marvin Hood; Paul Crater; Elise Leahy; Jimmy Chavez; Robert McMullen; Jim Ujioka; Stacia Miller; Zach West; Rhonda Wilson; Mike Johnson; Sara Montgomery; Hayden MacDonald; Jimmy Cummins; Greg Gudgell; Patrick O'Donnell; Todd Taylor; Randy Salenski; Andrew Abbott; Regina Ward; Jenna Compehos; Amanda Hatton; Melany Brewi; Sean Wisner; Diana Bouchard; Ryan Morgan; Cheri Manning; Art Knolle; Brent Lirette; Jim Godin; Billy Joe Pelegrin; Scott Burg; Nathan Curole; Roger White; Gary Rook; Gary Chouest; Jennifer Weber; Scott Bonner; Dave Blossom; Dave Petersen; Shannon Hammerly; Schawnda Gallup; Alex Sweeney; Brianna Hammes; Linda Edwards; Dan Gilson; John Horey; Angela Walters; Marjorie Nichols-Baron; Louis Richmond; and Craig Plaisance.

"Piglets" explore, inspect Terminal piping

What do pipeline people accustomed to inspecting 48-inch diameter TAPS pipe use when they have to thoroughly inspect two-, four- and six-inch diameter piping? A parade of piglets, of course!
 
In July, TAPS teams utilized a Small Bore Inline Inspection Tool (aka smart piglet) and small cleaning pigs to inspect a quarter-mile of aged, six-inch diameter underground ultra-low sulfur diesel pipe at the Valdez Marine Terminal. It was the first inspection of the piping since TAPS construction and the teams leveraged the modern, mini inspection tools to collect data that would determine the integrity of the pipe and the potential risk of diesel escaping to nearby water.
 
Alan Beckett, Alyeska's Senior Integrity Management Engineer, called the project "a defining moment of technology use on TAPS."
 
The small bore piping inspection project took about a year to complete after the contract was in place. Alyeska teamed up with Quest Integrity, Coffman Engineering, Houston Contracting Company, and PEAK on the project. The team chose to challenge the Quest Integrity cleaning and inspection tools at the Terminal, where there are all types of piping, infrastructure and equipment to work around. And they chose to inspect the Terminal's fuel line system because most of it runs underground, it terminates at the shoreline, and they wanted assurance that it was in good condition.
 
Just like the massive pigs that clean and inspect the 800 miles of TAPS piping, these little piglets cleaned and inspected the smaller diesel line.
 
The big difference?
 
"One person can easily handle these pigs," explained Carol Simmons, Alyeska Integrity Engineer. "They're very flexible and light. The six-inch diameter cleaning pigs are 18 inches long and made of light foam. The inspection pig is about three feet long and weighs about 20 pounds."
 
In fact, the three cleaning pigs were so light that Simmons' team had to use a pump skid to provide a push during the six cleaning runs. One cleaning pig was simple foam; another was more aggressive with brushes; and a third scraped the pipe with rubber discs.
 
"The cleaning pigs did a great job! The more pigs you run through the pipe, the better you get at launching, tracking and receiving the pigs," Simmons said.
 
She added that "Forty years of debris came out" during the multiple cleaning runs which each took 12-15 minutes to complete.
 
With clean pipes, the team ran two inspections with the smart piglet – the first lost about three feet of data collection when it hit a T in the line and found an air pocket; the second, after a backflush of the system to remove the air, caught all the data. Each inspection run was about 15-20 minutes.
 
"We were hoping to find pinholes, pits, general corrosion, wall thickness deviations, dents and more," explained Simmons. When the data came back, Simmons said the system was in surprisingly great shape – pipe thickness looked good, with very little corrosion, except for a pair of big dents in one small stretch of pipe.
 
"Our best guess is maybe a backhoe clamped onto the pipe then let it go after realizing what it was, leaving a dent on both sides," Simmons added. "Fortunately the pigs were able to pass through the narrow area."
 
After careful excavation of the pipe, the exposed area was then inspected with other nondestructive examination methods including dye penetrant, magnetic particle, straight beam UT, and laser profilometry. While no loss of containment occurred, the team then repaired the damage by welding a sleeve over the dented area, then coating, wrapping and reburying it.
 
Beckett and Simmons said last summer's work could be just the start of small bore utility piping inspections at the Terminal and at TAPS pump stations, where there are arrays of small diameter lines that serve many purposes. Specifically at the Terminal, Simmons is interested in inspecting the chemical sewer line, the ballast water lines and more.
 
"I think this is a great program that we should continue to develop, to assure ourselves that the 40-year-old small bore piping is in good shape, and will not need to be replaced anytime soon," Simmons said.

Alyeska Traveling Health Fair: Positive PWS impact

Alyeska's Traveling Health and Safety Fair spent four days in the Prince William Sound communities of Tatitlek and Chenega Bay recently, marking the 21st year of the annual event. Eight health care providers from across Alaska, nine UAA pharmacy students and faculty, and a pair of Alyeska employees joined the crew of Edison Chouest Offshore’s utility tug Ross Chouest, which transported the contingent on its five-day journey from Valdez to Tatitlek to Chenega Bay and back.

The group facilitated two full-day schedules of events each in Tatitlek and Chenega Bay. Both stops included a free health fair available for all residents, where they could receive basic biometric screenings and information on nutrition, healthy relationships, tobacco prevention, active lifestyles and more. Throughout both days there were also hearing, vision and development checkups for the community’s kids and classroom sessions about mental health and wellness, first aid and handwashing, positive communication and healthy food choices.

Each morning, health fair contributors ate breakfast with local youth at their schools. There were also special men's breakfasts, women's teas, and community dinners that packed each school's respective gymnasium, offering tasty and healthy menus that were headlined by Cajun-style shrimp and corn soup created by ECO Chef Chad Cavalier.

Local leaders and high school students also had the opportunity to tour the Ross Chouest, which provides a variety of services around the Prince William Sound area. Captain Carlos Alemany and his enthusiastic crew led visitors around the unique vessel’s deck, into its engine room, and other areas.

Even rare moments of downtime were filled with opportunities for health fair participants to encourage healthy lifestyles by playing basketball or jumping rope with local youth and assist in community projects like sewing tribal regalia, organizing donated library books, and prepping healthy snacks for schoolkids.

"The Prince William Sound Traveling Health Fair is the culmination of months of careful planning and preparation by Alyeska staff, contractors and community partners," explained Kate Dugan, Alyeska's Valdez Communications Manager. "It was special to make the trip for the first time with Edison Chouest Offshore and the terrific crew aboard the Ross Chouest. The event is always an adventure and this year was no exception."

Click here to see more photos!

Alyeska engineers step up in wake of big quake

When the big quake struck Nov. 30, most Alaskans suffered similar reactions – ranging from fear to anxiety to alarm for loved ones and property. 
 
Alyeska structural engineers Brian Johnson and Sterling Strait felt some of those things too; but the two men's thoughts also shifted quickly to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. 
 
Sterling, Alyeska's Seismic Program Coordinator accountable for responding to earthquakes impacting TAPS, immediately called the Operations Control Center: "All I could hear were alarms in the background," he said. Learning the epicenter was centered in Anchorage, he continued to coordinate with engineering and field crews throughout the day until TAPS restarted.  
 
While the pipeline passed unscathed by the 7.0 tremblor that rattled Alaskans mentally and shook structures and roads apart physically, that wasn't the end of work for Brian and Sterling. In the days following the quake, Alyeska freed up both engineers to assist the Alaska DOT inspecting and assessing state property for damages and usability. For their efforts in the aftermath of one of the area's largest quakes on record, the two men were formally recognized with Certificates of Appreciation from the State of Alaska Division of Facility Services. 
 
The appreciation was "a nice gesture," Brian said. "But it's not done with that in mind. It's a community need, and if that's your skill set, well, it's your community."
 
Added Sterling, "It's a rare role for engineers to be able to help like that."  
 
Sterling and Brian are relatively new to Alyeska, but both have many years logged as structural engineers in Alaska's oil and gas and construction industry. Brian was hired about six months back. following in the footsteps of his dad, an Alyeska retiree; his cousin works in HR. Sterling joined Alyeska a year and a half ago.
 
Sterling transitioned into the Seismic Program Coordinator role when the position opened. He knew as much about earthquakes as any good structural engineer in Alaska does. It's part of working here, he said. You need to know how to design for earthquakes. 
 
The day of the earthquake itself, both men were home – a flex day for Sterling, a sick day for Brian. When the shaking started, Brian instinctively grabbed his wife and newborn daughter and headed for what his engineer brain knew was the safest part of their Eagle River home, structurally. 
 
In Anchorage, relaxing on his couch, Sterling said he realized the potential enormity of the quake "about five seconds in, when the shaking didn't stop." 
 
After ensuring his wife and child's safety, Brian said, "My second thought was about what was going on with the mainline and where was the earthquake in relation to that." 
 
Because that's the thing seismically minded folks will explain, is it isn't so much the magnitude as the location of the quake – in this case, the proximity to TAPS. The Denali Fault quake in 2002 was a 7.9 and struck directly beneath the pipeline, causing minor damage, shutting down the line for 66 hours and 33 minutes. 
 
This one was much farther away, and after a precautionary shutdown and inspection, TAPS returned to operation that same day. 
 
That didn't mean the work was over for Brian and Sterling. 
 
Sterling is involved with both the Structural Engineers Association of Alaska and the Alaska Seismic Hazard Safety Commission. He's even coordinated training between the two organizations aimed at earthquake response. He reached out to colleagues and state officials, coordinated with his Alyeska supervisors, and within days of the quake, Sterling and Brian were on their way to survey state owned and leased infrastructure. 
 
Remember in the days following the quake, how buildings were labeled with green, yellow and red labels? Green meant facilities were OK. Yellow signaled damages, but in limited areas. Red condemned buildings as dangerous for potential collapse and continued occupancy. 
 
Working in teams, Sterling and Brian visited numerous facilities in the area, including storage warehouses and office buildings, assigning these colored labels. 
 
Sterling even got to inspect the Goose Creek Correctional Center, where cracks snaked through concrete walls, alarming the confined inmates. 
 
"It's a concrete building, so there were cracks everywhere," Sterling said. "We spent part of the time there doing structural engineering, and part of the time doing therapy and telling people, 'It will be OK.'"
 
Brian agreed. While he found himself in some spaces that, to him, were clearly safe and unscathed, folks needed to hear that – and found particular solace hearing it from a professional. 
 
"A lot of those folks, it meant a lot to them to see us walking around, looking at things closely," Brian said. "It meant a lot to hear a structural engineer say, 'There's no sign of fatigue or overstress, there's no sign of imminent collapse.'" 
 
Just as TAPS withstood the Nov. 30 event, Sterling and others were validated to see seismic retrofit work at Alyeska's Operations Control Center in Anchorage proved out, as the building weathered the quake. 
 
The earthquake also proved an opportunity for Sterling to run through all Alyeska's earthquake procedures and adjust where needed. 
 
One example: Alyeska is now looking at using the software that's used to call out employees to staff Incident Management Teams to perform welfare checks for large groups of employees during emergencies. Work is also continuing to launch a new earthquake management and monitoring system later this year. 

TAPS celebrates International Women's Day

Celebrating International Women's Day by spotlighting some of the hardworking and talented women on TAPS! #InternationalWomensDay#TAPSPride

Alyeska’s VanWingerden featured in API campaign

Operations Director Klint VanWingerden explains how our organization is optimizing operations and applying new technologies to current work as part of the American Petroleum Institute's (API) new State of American Energy 2019 campaign: We are America's Generation Energy. Klint is featured in a State of American Energy 2019 video, an annual report, a profile story and social media.

Klint said he recognizes the impact the oil industry has had on his family, education, career and even his outdoor hobbies outside of work like snow machine racing. This fall, he welcomed an API film crew to the OCC to see how the pipeline is monitored and brought the crew the track to his home in the Mat-Su Valley, where he talked about his work, family and fun.

This week, VanWingerden is in Washington D.C. to be a part of API's State of American Energy 2019 kickoff event, where they debut the new video and report.

Read Kint's profile and learn more about his work along TAPS, how pipeline work is being optimized and the training he's doing to train for the Iron Dog, click here.

For more information on API's 2019 campaign, visit their website here.

Yuletide on the Yukon: Santa visits Rampart

Christmas came early in Rampart this year when Santa and his elf arrived by way of Alyeska helicopter on Sunday, Dec. 16.
 
Rampart is a small community on the Yukon River, 85 miles northwest of Fairbanks, and strategically close to the Yukon Response Base. Approximately 14 residents play an integral role on the Village Response Team, there to support TAPS crews in the event of an emergency.
 
Tim Smith, Materials Coordinator, dressed as Santa and delivered presents to 23 kids with the help of Jeannette Stepovich, Planner/Scheduler, who was dressed as Santa's elf. Dozens of TAPS employees donated the gifts or money and others volunteered to shop and then wrap each gift.
 
"The generosity kept on flowing," said Jeannette. "The warehouse started raising money and taking donations and soon there was enough for each kid to have at least two gifts."
 
Ramey Brooks, PS6 P&CM, managed logistics on the ground, coordinating with the residents of Rampart and the folks at Maritime Helicopters for the holiday event. Ramey arrived with a helicopter laden with fresh fruit, snacks, juice and an assortment of Christmas treats baked by Patty Miller, one of the cooks at PS6.
 
"Jeannette and I handed out the gifts but you can't pull something like that off without the help of a lot of special volunteers and generous people," said Tim.

Ahtna, Alyeska renew Friendship Agreement

This week was a time for reflection and celebration of a special partnership as leaders from Ahtna, Inc. and Alyeska gathered to renew the longstanding Friendship Agreement between the two organizations. In addition to the signing, Ahtna board members and Alyeska leadership discussed the agreement, current matters, and upcoming projects. Alyeska President Tom Barrett and Ahtna, Inc. President Michelle Anderson completed the official signing of the agreement.
 
"Alyeska has a special and enduring relationship with Ahtna, and we appreciate that they share their traditional lands with us and bring innovative solutions from the exceptional employees along TAPS," said Barrett. "As our company brings innovation forward for the next 40 years, our relationship with Ahtna will not change, but only grow stronger in partnership." 
 
Ahtna and Alyeska have worked together since 1970, and continue to find ways to collaborate and develop opportunities for Ahtna shareholders along TAPS. Several Ahtna shareholders were recently recognized for their work on TAPS by the Atigun Award program; Athna workers received an Honorable Mention for Teamwork in their efforts with the G029 Workpad Mitigation at TAPS Milepost 652.5.

Advanced Fast Water Response Training/Exercise

Alyeska held an Advanced Fast Water Response Training/Exercise on June 25-29, along the Salcha and Tanana Rivers. The five-day Advanced Fast Water Course was a highly challenging training designed to focus on the most difficult portion of response in fast water: containment and control actions. Due to the length and intensity of the Advanced Fast Water Responder Course, it pushes responders to a higher level of skill development by fostering team concepts and leadership experience, using specific tactics and strategies within Alyeska’s Oil Spill Response Training Program.  
 
Participants came from TAPS pump/response stations, SERVS, Houston Contracting Company, Ahtna, Alaska Clean Seas (ACS), Rampart Village Responders, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from Alaska, Idaho and Oregon, and Clean Harbors OSRO of New Jersey. 
 
 
Training exercise instructors were: Earl Rose, James Pence, Ben Pennington, Steve Hood, Walt Henry and Gary Breen. 
 
Some of the facts of the training include: approximately 70 participants, 12 OSCP trailers, 15 vessels, a helicopter and a drone.
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 Next
Back to top