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Oil Spill

Whistle-Blower Reveals Flawed Construction At North Dakota Gas Plants Where Massive Spill Was Downplayed

Two North Dakota gas processing plants in the heart of the Bakken oil fields have shown signs of an eroded safety culture and startling construction problems, according to Paul Lehto, a 54-year-old former gas plant operator who has come out as a whistle-blower. He described worrisome conditions at the Lonesome Creek plant, in Alexander, and the Garden Creek plant, in Watford City, where DeSmog recently revealed one of the largest oil and gas industry spills in U.S. history had occurred. Both plants process natural gas brought via pipeline from Bakken wells and are run by the Oklahoma-based oil and gas service company, ONEOK Partners.

Did North Dakota Regulators Hide An Oil And Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez?

In July 2015 workers at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant, in Watford City, North Dakota, noticed a leak in a pipeline and reported a spill to the North Dakota Department of Health that remains officially listed as 10 gallons, the size of two bottled water delivery jugs. But a whistle-blower has revealed to DeSmog the incident is actually on par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which released roughly 11 million gallons of thick crude.

Pipeline Spills More Than 8,000 Gallons of Jet Fuel Into Indiana River

A pipeline spilled more than 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river, The Associated Press reported Sunday. The affected river was St. Marys River in Decatur, which is a town of 9,500 people about 100 miles from Indianapolis. Cleaning the spill could take weeks, Decatur Mayor Kenneth L. Meyer told the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Journal Gazette. The spill was first reported Friday night in a safety warning issued by the Decatur Police Department urging residents to avoid the area around the spill, local news outlet WANE reported Saturday. Houston-based Buckeye Pipe Line Company, L.P., which owns the pipeline, confirmed the spill to WANE Saturday. Company officials said there had been a failure Friday evening that had caused the spill.

Tribe Says Army Corps Stonewalling On Dakota Access Pipeline Report, Oil Spill Risk

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is defending its claim that the Dakota Access pipeline has no significant environmental impact, but it issued only a brief summary of its court-ordered reassessment while keeping the full analysis confidential. The delay in releasing the full report, including crucial details about potential oil spills, has incensed the Standing Rock Tribe, whose reservation sits a half-mile downstream from where the pipeline crosses the Missouri River. The tribe said the Army Corps is stonewalling, and it said it will continue to oppose the pipeline. Meanwhile, oil continues to flow through the pipeline two years after opponents set up a desperate encampment to try to block the project. In June 2017, a federal judge ordered the Corps to reassess the potential environmental harm posed by the pipeline,

Crude Oil Leaks Into Floodwaters After Train Derails In Iowa

DOON, Iowa (AP) — A freight train derailed in northwest Iowa on Friday, leaking crude oil from into flooded fields flanking the tracks and raising concerns about the possible contamination of residential water supplies downstream, officials said. BNSF railroad spokesman Andy Williams said no one was injured when 33 oil tanker cars from Alberta, Canada, derailed around 4:30 a.m. Friday just south of Doon in Lyon County. Some of the tankers were compromised, causing the oil to leak into floodwaters and eventually into the rain-swollen Little Rock River, but officials didn’t have an exact number of tankers that leaked oil by late Friday afternoon, Williams said. BNSF had hazardous materials and environmental experts on the scene and had begun cleanup within hours of the derailment, Williams said.

Enbridge Fined For Failing To Fully Inspect Pipelines After Kalamazoo Oil Spill

The Canadian oil pipeline company responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills on record has agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine for failing to thoroughly inspect its pipelines for weaknesses as required under a 2016 agreement. Federal officials say Enbridge, Inc., did not carry out timely and thorough inspections on one of its pipeline systems, as it had agreed to do as part of a consent decree reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice. The 2016 settlement stemmed from a massive 2010 oil spill into Michigan's Kalamazoo River. The spill required years and more than a billion dollars to clean up, and it highlighted the hazards of pumping heavy tar sands oil through pipelines. More than 1 million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River near the town of Marshall when a 6-foot rupture opened in Enbridge pipeline 6B.

For 15 Years, Energy Transfer Partners Pipelines Leaked An Average Of Once Every 11 Days

5,475 days, 527 pipeline spills: that's the math presented in a new report from environmental groups Greenpeace USA and the Waterkeeper Alliance examining pipelines involving Dakota Access builder Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). It's based on public data from 2002 to 2017. All told, those leaks released 3.6 million gallons of hazardous liquids, including 2.8 million gallons of crude oil, according to data collected from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). That doesn't include an additional 2.4 million gallons of “drilling fluids, sediment, and industrial waste” leaked during ETP's construction of two pipelines in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. Also left out: air pollution and leaks from natural gas pipelines, which were beyond the scope of the new report but which play a significant role in climate change and can cause explosions.

Standing Rock: Dakota Access Pipeline Leak Technology Can’t Detect All Spills

Nine months after oil starting flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continues to fight the controversial project, which passes under the Missouri River just upstream from their water supply. In a 313-page report submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the tribe challenged the adequacy of leak detection technology used by pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners. The tribe also questioned the company's worst-case spill estimate and faulted Energy Transfer Partners for failing to provide a detailed emergency response plan to the tribe showing how the company would respond to an oil spill. "We wanted to show how and what we are still fighting here," said Doug Crow Ghost, water resources director for the Standing Rock Tribe.

Top Pipeline Safety Official Profits From Oil Spills

By Itai Vardi for Nation of Change - A newly appointed federal regulator charged with overseeing pipeline safety personally profits from oil spill responses, a DeSmog investigation has found. Drue Pearce is the acting administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency in the Department of Transportation responsible for ensuring oil and gas pipeline integrity. However, she is also associated with a company specializing in the sale of oil spill equipment. Pearce, a Republican from Alaska, was appointed on August 7 by the Trump administration to serve as PHMSA’s deputy administrator, a position that does not require U.S. Senate confirmation. However, since at the time the administration had yet to nominate an administrator for the agency, Pearce stepped into the role as acting administrator. In early September, Trump finally nominated, and last Friday the Senate confirmed rail transport executive Howard Elliot as PHMSA administrator. Once Elliot formally takes the helm at PHMSA, Pearce will serve as his deputy. Business records filed in the state of Alaska and reviewed by DeSmog show that since 2009 Pearce and her husband, Michael F. Williams, have owned Spill Shield Inc., an Anchorage-based company selling equipment for oil spill responses. The company’s website offers various products, including booms, baffles, skimmers, absorbents, and oil spill response kits.

As Arkema Plant Burns, 6 Things We Know About Petrochemical Risks

By Gretchen Goldman for USCUSA - As Harvey continues to wreak havoc in the Southeast, one issue is starting to emerge as a growing threat to public health and safety: Houston’s vast oil, gas, and chemical production landscape. We’ve already seen accidental releases of chemicals at facilities owned by ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others. Now we are seeing explosions at Arkema’s Crosby facility 20 miles northeast of Houston, due to power failures and flooding. And there remains a threat of additional explosions. There is no reason to believe the Crosby facility is the only one at risk of chemical disasters right now. The coast of southeast Texas and Louisiana has a whole lot of petrochemical production—infrastructure that was exactly in the path of Hurricane Harvey and continues to be hit by its remnants. I’ve studied (and been worried about) chemical safety, sea level rise, and storm surge riskto oil and gas infrastructure in the Gulf for several years, and many of those fears are now playing out. Here are some things we know about petrochemical production in the Gulf, its storm risks, who’s impacted, and who’s responsible.

Court Lets Exxon Off Hook For Pipeline Spill In Arkansas Neighborhood

By Georgina Gustin for Inside Climate News - A federal appeals court has let ExxonMobil largely off the hook for a 2013 pipeline spill that deluged a neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas, with more than 200,000 gallons of heavy tar sands crude oil, sickening residents and forcing them from their homes. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday overturned federal findings of violations and the better part of a $2.6 million fine imposed on Exxon's pipeline unit in 2015 by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The regulator had accused the company of failing to maintain the decades-old Pegasus Pipeline and to prioritize testing of a segment of older, high-risk pipe where a 22-foot gash eventually opened along a metal seam. Exxon challenged the violation and fine, arguing there was no proof its actions contributed to the spill and saying it had conducted adequate testing of the pipeline as required by law. The appeals court agreed, saying the company met its legal obligation when it "conducted a lengthy, repeated and in-depth analysis" of the pipeline and its risks.

The Company Behind Dakota Access Pipeline Has Another Big Problem In Ohio

By Catherine Traywick for Bloomberg - The year began with optimism for Rover. The 2016 election landed friends of Energy Transfer in high places. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry was a company director before he became Energy secretary. President Donald Trump is a former shareholder. After just two weeks in office, Trump cleared the way for the Dakota Access pipeline, which was stalled for months amid protests from Native Americans and their supporters. In that case, Energy Transfer needed a single approval to complete construction -- a federal easement allowing it to drill beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. For Rover, the hold-up stems from mishaps that have prompted federal regulators to look closely at Energy Transfer’s conduct before allowing work to finish. Hint of Trouble The first hint of trouble came last year, when Energy Transfer disregarded a FERC recommendation and razed the 173-year-old Stoneman House in Carroll County, Ohio. The agency used the demolition as a basis for denying Rover a blanket construction permit, forcing Energy Transfer to seek federal approvals at virtually every stage of construction. With that restriction, FERC approved the project in February, and Energy Transfer undertook an aggressive construction push. In a matter of weeks, workers cleared 2,918 acres of trees along 511 miles of the pipeline’s route, finishing just in time to beat bat-roosting season, which would have halted work. The company said it’s hired 13,000 workers over the past four months.

Dakota Access Pipeline Is Already Springing Leaks

By Alexandra Jacobo for Nation of Change - The yet to be completed, controversial Dakota Access Pipeline has leaked more than 100 gallons of oil already. The pipeline sprang two separate leaks in March. First, 84 gallons of oil were spilled due to a leaky flange on March 3. This leak was located in Watford City. According to the North Dakota Health Department the oil flow was immediately cut off and the spill was contained on the site. A second incident happened on March 5 in Mercer county and spilled 20 gallons of oil. The leak was due to a manufacturing defect on an above-ground valve. The contaminated soil was removed and nothing else was affected. More recently the pipeline spilled another 84 gallons just outside of Tulare, South Dakota. This took place on April 1 and was due to mechanical failure during the testing of a surge pump, according to Aberdeen News. Although the company behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners, and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources consider these “small” leaks and insist they were easily contained, the spills are troubling for many environmentalists, and more importantly for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that has spent the last year and a half protesting the completion of the pipeline.

Australian Oil Well Leaked Into Ocean For Months – But Spill Kept Secret

By Michael Slezak for The Guardian - An offshore oil and gas well in Australia leaked oil continuously into the ocean for two months in 2016, releasing an estimated 10,500 litres. But the spill was never made public by the regulator and details about the well, its whereabouts and operator remain secret. In its annual offshore performance report released this week, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority included a mention of a 10,500-litre spill in April 2016. It provided limited details about, noting that it had been identified during a routine inspection. After inquiries from the Guardian, Nopsema said the leak went on for two months, at a rate of about 175 litres a day. It went unnoticed while the floating platform was undergoing maintenance and was only discovered when the platform returned. A spokesman for Nopsema said the leak had been caused by a seal degrading. The regulator investigated the spill and said the operator had been ordered to check the seals were working before disconnecting the platform. But despite requests to reveal exactly where the spill occurred, or what company was responsible, Nopsema refused to disclose the information, revealing only that it was in the North West Shelf. The Nopsema spokesman said that since companies were compelled by law to report these leaks the regulator believed there was an “implied duty of confidence”.

Dakota Pipeline Builder Under Fire For Ohio Spill: 8 Violations In 7 Weeks

By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News - U.S. regulators halted construction at new sites on an Ohio pipeline after several million gallons of drilling mud coated important state wetlands. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, is under fire from federal and state regulators after triggering a massive spill, and seven other violations, during the first seven weeks of construction of a major gas pipeline in Ohio. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday sent a letter to the Rover pipeline operator ordering it to not start construction on any new locations, as well as to stop construction at the site of the major wetlands spill and to hire an independent contractor to dig into what went wrong there. "Staff has serious concerns regarding the magnitude of the incident (which was several orders of magnitude greater than other documented [horizontal directional drilling] inadvertent returns for this project), its environmental impacts, the lack of clarity regarding the underlying reasons for its occurrence, and the possibility of future problems," federal regulators wrote. The phrase "inadvertent returns" is industry speak for a certain type of spill or release of construction material.
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