* Bypass to restore full volumes this weekend
* Pipeline flows at 320,000 bpd
* Alaskan crude inventories rose 13 pct Wednesday
(Updates with pipeline throughput of 320,000 bpd)
By Joshua Schneyer
NEW YORK, Jan 13 Alaska's main oil pipeline
will shut for 36 hours over the weekend to install a bypass
aimed at restoring oil shipments to full volumes after the line
was shut following a leak last week, its operator said on
Crude flow was 320,000 barrels per day on Thursday, about
half of normal levels, after operator Alyeska partially resumed
shipments earlier this week. The rate fell from a previous
400,000 bpd on Wednesday, as the pipeline drew less oil from
storage tanks along its trajectory, said spokeswoman Stefani
Alyeska plans to install a bypass line that will allow
shipments to return to normal rates of 630,000 to 650,000 bpd,
or about 12 percent of U.S. oil output. The line will remain
near its current, reduced rates until it is shut down for the
bypass, the operator said late Wednesday.
The state typically produces more than 600,000 bpd of crude
oil, but the idling of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS)
cut production to as low as 35,000 bpd earlier this week.
As of Wednesday, BP Plc (BP.L) had restored most oil
production in Prudhoe Bay, the largest U.S. oil field,
government data shows.
Alaskan oil production rose to 358,424 barrels on
Wednesday, up from 49,717 barrels on Tuesday, according to
Alaska's Department of Revenue.
Alaskan crude stockpiles also rebounded on Wednesday,
gaining 13 percent to 2.45 million barrels, from 2.16 million
Since TAPS closed after the small leak on Jan. 8, around
2.35 million barrels of Alaskan crude production was shut in
through Wednesday, according to a Reuters calculation.
(Factbox: [ID:nN1376382] )
The shutdown helped propel gains in crude prices CLc1 to
27-month highs on Wednesday. On Thursday, U.S. oil futures
fell, settling down 46 cents at $91.40 a barrel.
Alaskan crude was shipped this week from storage facilities
at the Valdez port terminal to keep refiners supplied while the
pipeline was shut.
The small pipeline leak was discovered at a pumping station
along the 800-mile (1,280-km) line, forcing its shutdown.
Alyeska received permission from regulators to restart the
line temporarily on Tuesday, to prevent it from freezing.
An administrative order from the Environmental Protection
Agency requires Alyeska to take several safety steps to prevent
any spilling of oil onto the gravel or tundra. It also requires
Alyeska to submit a final report on the incident, including
details of all response actions, by May 31.
(Editing by Marguerita Choy and Lisa Shumaker)