54 Alaska Business Monthly | May 2015 www.akbizmag.com
Engineering Alaska’s Oil and Gas Industry
From permafrost to pipeline cor- rosion, the engineering firms that work within Alaska’s oil and gas
industry deal with it all.
They provide environmental services
critical to operating in the state’s harsh
Arctic conditions. They pioneer new
processes to meet the evolving needs
of Alaska’s oil and gas sector and do
geotechnical work necessary to energy
projects around the state.
In this field, native expertise and a
well-rounded portfolio are key.
Great Northern Engineering
Great Northern Engineering does a
little of everything. Founded by the late
John Riggs more than thirty years ago
and headquartered in Palmer, the company handles everything from bulk fuel
tank terminal facilities to well design to
airport fueling systems.
It designs tankage, secondary containment, fire suppression, transfer
piping, and distribution systems for
fuel facilities, as well as instrumentation and control systems. It provides
computerized project management,
critical path analysis, and other services necessary to bring projects from
their earliest stages to completion.
The business is a subsidiary of Old
Harbor Native Corporation. While it
has deep roots in Alaska’s oil and gas
industry, its projects also span major
commercial construction, telecommunications, and government work.
The company’s multitalented staff
members are certified in Arctic engineering and API 653 tank inspection
and support projects with a wide variety of other skills honed over years on
the job. But while Great Northern has
extensive experience with tried-and-true methods, the engineering firm is
also no stranger to more modern technologies.
The Palmer firm is working with sister company Amee Bay to bring a revolutionary new cleaning process to the
Dry ice cleaning—a process that
uses dry ice pellets in a way similar to
sandblasting—has promising environmental and economic effects for Alaska
“It’s a much easier, safer alternative,”
says Gawain Brumfield, Great Northern
Engineering CEO. “The applications are
The technology works like this: First,
compressed air moves solid carbon di-
oxide pellets through high-velocity noz-
zles. The pellets’ kinetic energy breaks
up some contaminates on impact, and
the rest is taken care of via sublimation,
when the solid pellets instantly trans-
form into gas. The rapid expansion re-
moves any remaining contamination
from the surface being cleaned; the gas
disappears and the leftover dirt can be
easily swept or vacuumed away.
The process can be used to clean
even the most intricate, delicate surfaces, Brumfield says, including electrical instrumentation, tight spaces,
and complex geometries unreachable
by traditional cleaning methods. The
technology was mastered by Amee Bay,
another Old Harbor subsidiary, but
given enough demand, Brumfield says
his company might invest in its own
It’s all about savings, both financial
and environmental. The dry ice cleaning process is nonabrasive, avoiding
potentially costly wear and tear to the
surface being cleaned. It’s also environmentally friendly because, unlike solvent cleaning or sandblasting or water
jet blasting, the dry ice process relies
on recycled carbon dioxide. When the
gas returns into the atmosphere after
it’s used, companies avoid the costs associated with a secondary waste source
that must then be cleaned up and safely
The process has successfully been
used on switchboards, circuit break-
ers, cooling coils, rotating equipment,
engines, and turbines. It eliminates the
need to disassemble electrical and me-
chanical components before cleaning,
as well as the need to remove flash rust
prior to welding or preservation work.
For Alaska oil and gas companies
working with aging infrastructure, del-
icate machinery, and constant financial
considerations, dry ice cleaning brings
“There is an art and a science to in-
dustrial dry ice cleaning and we’ve
perfected the process, and the results,
through extensive research, develop-
ment, proofs of process, and field use for
clients across the maritime and indus-
trial fields,” Brumfield says. “The time
and the maturity of the process is right
for immediate implementation in the oil
and gas work we do here in Alaska.”
Whether they’re trailblazing new
cleaning methods or performing essential corrosion prevention work, environmental issues are top of mind for
most engineering firms working within
Alaska’s oil and gas industry.
Based in Anchorage, Taku Engineering
provides specialty corrosion engineering, project management, cathodic protection, and other services for a wide
variety of projects within Alaska’s oil
and gas industry.
Bill Mott, the firm’s principal engineer, says the work they do involves
maintaining infrastructure while safeguarding one of the most valuable assets of all—the fragile Arctic ecosystems where much of the state’s oil and
gas-related work takes place.
“It’s nice to be working in the oil industry in a technical field, and then at
the same time protecting our environment,” says Mott, who has more than
twenty-five years’ experience in corrosion engineering.
As oilfields age, the need for preventive maintenance only grows, he says.
Many developments have been producing for decades. The Trans Alaska
Pipeline System turns forty in 2017, and
the science of corrosion engineering be-
By Kirsten Swann