Birth: June 10, 1916
Death: March 5, 1982
Edward L. Patton, the man who led construction of the 800-milelong Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, died Friday at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Wash. He was 65 years old.
Mr. Patton lived in nearby Medina, his home since he retired in 1978 as chairman and chief executive officer of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.
The pipeline took seven years and $7.7 billion to build. It runs from oil reserves on Alaska's North Slope south to loading facilities at Valdez Arm.
The Prudhoe Bay field, with about 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil, was discovered in 1968, the largest single oil reserve ever found in North America.
By 1970, a consortium of oil companies formed Alyeska to build and operate the pipeline that was to carry the oil to ships at Valdez Arm. Mr. Patton, then the manager of a new Exxon oil refinery complex in California, was made the president of the joint venture, whose principals were Exxon, the Atlantic Richfield Company and British Petroleum.
Stiff opposition to the pipeline came from various quarters. Alyeska settled with Eskimo and Indian groups for the right of way and with Alaska and Federal officials dubious about engineering problems, finances and the project's environmental impact. Defended the Pipeline
Mr. Patton testified at hearings in Anchorage and Washington and defended the project in speeches and in letters to newspaper editors. The pipeline, Mr. Patton declared, was ''vitally important for America.'' Others agreed with him after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries dramatically raised prices for crude oil. When President Nixon signed a bill giving Alyeska the green light in November 1973, Mr. Patton had construction teams in place to start spadework by spring.
In March 1975, Mr. Patton watched as tractors lowered the first 1,400 feet of four-foot-diameter pipe into a ditch north of Valdez. There were delays caused by a strike, faulty welds, an oil spill and a fatal explosion in a pump house, but the pipeline was completed in June 1977. Two months later, a tanker sailed from Valdez Arm with the first cargo of North Slope oil.
Mr. Patton, a native of Newport News, Va., graduated from Georgia Tech in 1938 with a degree in chemical engineering. Except for five years in the Navy in World War II, he spent his entire career with Exxon and its predecessors, the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and the Humble Oil and Refining Company.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy, two daughters, and two grandchildren. A funeral is scheduled for Wednesday in Bellevue, Wash.
By Wolfgang Saxon. Published in The New York Times, March 8, 1982