Improved reliability.  Increased safety.  Lower costs.

 Since the first Pennsylvanian decided it would be a better idea to put oil in a pipe rather than pour it into barrels, lash the barrels to a wagon, and send them hurtling down hill (with the barrels occasionally beating the horses to their destinations), oil, and later, natural gas pipelines have certainly proved to be a safe, reliable, efficient, and ecologically friendly way to ship energy supplies over great distances.

Nowhere has this been proven with such emphatic clarity as in Alaska.  The existing oil pipeline has been shot at by hunters, overrun by wildfires, romanced by moose, and shaken by earthquakes and yet has held it’s own in more than 35 years of operation.

The pipeline was then, and still is, a technological marvel.  And as it has transferred more than 16 billion barrels of oil in its lifetime it has transformed the economy of Alaska in ways that not even its most fervent proponents could have imagined.

And – if all goes according to plan – that is about to happen again with the building of a new natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.

The proposed pipeline project – in which the state, thanks to Governor Parnell and state legislators working in partnership with major oil and gas producers – will require about $45 billion in new investment (about seven times the cost of the equally important mid-continent Keystone XL project) and include not just the pipeline itself but harbors, roads, and state-of-the-art facilities to liquefy the gas for shipping to points south.

This project – in part spurred by the oil and gas tax reform measures recently passed by the state legislature – would finally allow the tapping of the more than 8 TRILLION cubic feet of gas (one of the world’s largest reserves) in the Point Thompson section of the North Slope.

The economics of the project are obvious – $2-3 billion more per year in additional revenues for the state, thousands of permanent (and temporary construction – if you call a decade “temporary”) jobs, and a more independent, reliable, and cost-effective energy production system for the United States.

But one less obvious key to the success of this 800 mile long dream lay in its commitment to being one of the safest – from all points of view – projects of its size ever built.

Worker – production and construction and maintenance– safety measures, environmental studies and mitigation efforts, and ensuring the on-going safety of the operation of the pipeline are all paramount in the planning process.

North America’s highly integrated energy transportation network requires all types of transport options, and there is certain a role for rail, trucking, and shipping in brining energy supplies to market. When it comes to natural gas though, building this pipeline simply make more sense than any other transport option and the proposed Alaska project should be commenced as soon as possible.

Read it on Forbes