There is no doubt North Dakota is at the forefront of the oil frontier in the United States. But reports continue to mount about spills here and more spills there and the question remains: Is this business as usual?
Yes, accidents happen and yes, most companies are building proper trenching to contain spills, but what is the impact on the environment and what are the safety issues? Two incidents that occurred over the weekend highlight the safety and environmental questions.
In one of the more recent cases, the North Dakota Department of Health said Saturday 690 barrels of crude oil spilled from an underground pipeline at an oil gathering site near New Town.
The spill, discovered Friday afternoon at a well site about 14 miles northeast of New Town, came from a pipeline owned by Wyoming-based Bridger Pipeline.
Department of Health environmental geologist Kris Roberts said the well site, owned by EOG Resources Inc., has a perimeter dike that prevented most of the oil from escaping the site.
“The good thing is, it leaked on the well site,” he said. “Companies are starting to learn. They have perimeter berm all the way around, so if they have a spill on location, it doesn’t get off location, if they can help it.”
Roberts said it wasn’t clear yet what caused the leak, but said it came from an underground discharge line that connects the main pipeline and a pump at the well site. He said the companies are investigating the cause of the spill.
Roberts said workers at the site discovered the spill around 2:30 p.m. Friday and called the Department of Health shortly before 3 p.m.
Workers cleaned up most of the spill Friday night, Roberts said. The Department of Health said Saturday morning they recovered 640 barrels. One barrel equals 42 gallons, which means 29,000 gallons of oil spilled out.
Meanwhile, state health officials said a pipeline trenching operation near Alexander caused a spill of about 300 barrels of oil or 12,600 gallons.
Officials said workers recovered the crude and put in berms to contain it in the event of rain.
The state’s Department of Health said the trenching operation damaged a Belle Fourche Pipeline in McKenzie County and caused the spill. Officials say most of the oil remained confined to the trench and no water sources suffered from the spill.
Belle Fourche is a Wyoming-based company that transports crude oil in the Williston Basin in western North Dakota and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.