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"Actually, the pipeline operator would probably opt to run the line at minimal flow just to avoid the cost of dismantling the pipeline and doing the environmental remediation work. Depending on the dismantling cost, it might even make sense to barge oil to Point Barrow just to keep the pipeline running."

If you could get barges to Prudhoe Bay, you wouldn't need a pipeline.

At some point in the not too distant future, it might make economic sense to shut down the pipeline. It is now running at about 20% of capacity.....and dropping each year.

It costs tens of millions to maintain it....and tens of millions to operate it.

The only hope is to develop ANWR (and hopefully find enough oil to make it worthwhile - no one knows for sure). Or find oil off the coast in the new oil exploration leases.

THere will come a point where the cost to keep the pipeline (and collecting system at Prudhoe Bay) in operation exceeds the profits on the oil. Remember, Obama thinks the 'oil companies don't want to give up those profits'. He is all set to 'take them'. Alaska wants more money - their revenues are declining. They want a bigger share.

The flow of oil cannot drop too low...otherwise oil will freeze in the gets to 50 and 60 below zero in the winter time.

The Prudhoe Bay collector system rusted out because BP didn't use enough rust preventer - it has to add this to the system at the well head to keep the pipes from rusting and being eaten out by moisture and acids in the oil. Oil coming out of the ground contains dozens of chemicals, water, acids, dissolved gasses, etc.

The pipeline was meant to last 25 years - same with the pipes at is now 30+ years.

If it gets shut down, that will be the end. Almost impossible to mothball - things will rust almost immediately all along the pipeline - seriously. After a year, you'd have to replace much of it at a cost of $30 to $50 billion or more.

The road along the pipeline (the haul road) costs tens of millions to keep open all year long. It is constantly being rebuilt and reworked.

Just like deep sea platforms, when they get 'too old' they get dismantled and sold for scrap.

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