Voices from the North Slope of Alaska: John Haines

To mark the 40th anniversary of oil production at Prudhoe Bay, employees who were there at the beginning talk about producing energy for America in one of the harshest environments in the world.

John Haines, senior commercial analyst: began his career 36 years on the Slope

The Beginning

John Haines, who now works in the BP Anchorage office, went to the North Slope straight from college where he walked into a work place that few people had ever experienced before.

“The basecamp was kind of a surreal sort of a place. There was a large camp building on vertical support piles elevated above the ground, and it had a swimming pool.” he said. “Back then Prudhoe Bay had a left side and right side of the field. Sohio operated the west side and Arco operated the east side and there was an invisible divider right down the center.”

Haines said everything was new, as the location was so remote and the oil industry did not have much experience in working in such a cold place.

Living and Working

“Oil production was understood well around the world, but the challenges were just pretty amazing,” he said. “The scale and the size of everything, that was so impressive. The pipes are large diameter and the compressors are big and the pumps are big and the generating facilities are big, everything is just big.”
Haines said the extreme cold presented technical challenges for the staff.

“The engineering was kind of new, trying to figure out how to work in the Arctic was a challenge. We had to design a well that had to punch through 2,000 feet of permafrost, essentially frozen soil,” he said.

And, the team had to find materials and liquids that could stand up to the rigors of the extreme cold.

“Arctic engineering was hard to figure out, we had to develop special grease that would seal the well head components and not become as stiff as putty.”

Haines said that working the first wells at Prudhoe and helping to bring oil down the pipeline still gives him a strong sense of accomplishment.

“It has been a marvel what we have done on the Slope and the pipeline, really a marvel.”