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North Dakota oil spill: an update

Published by , Assistant Editor
World Pipelines,

On 5 December, a local landowner discovered an oil spill in Belfield (North Dakota). The Belle Fourche pipeline rupture spilt over 176 000 gallons of crude oil, according to the pipeline’s operator, equating to a loss of approximately 4200 bbls before it shut the pipe down. While the cause of the spill is still being investigated, Wendy Owen – a spokeswoman for True Companies, the operator of the Belle Fourche pipeline  – told the Associated Press that it might have occurred when a hillside slumped due to snowfall.

The Bismark Tribune has reported that the North Dakota Department of Health, along with contractors, has been working to isolate the area surrounding the spill and attempted to burn some of the oil. Cleanup crews had recovered 52 752 gallons, as of 13 December. The crews have since been testing to assess whether burning the leaked product would be a viable option for the cleanup operation.

"It’s going to take some time," Bill Suess, an environmental scientist for the North Dakota Department of Health, told the Associated Press. "Obviously there will be some component of the cleanup that will go toward spring."

The Belle Fourche spill has been described as “sizeable” by the Associated Press, who continued to highlight that it is not the largest oil spill to occur in North Dakota, and that it appears that the spill has not entered the Little Missouri River and has not no threatened drinking water sources. Moreover, a containment band has been set up in the Ash Coulee Creek to prevent it from spilling into the River.

This spill occurred after months of protests against the DAPL in the state. A key worry of those opposed to the DAPL is that a pipeline leak could contaminate drinking water. The proposed DAPL route contains a section of pipe that would be built under the Missouri River, which is the primary water source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Referencing the Associated Press, the Billings Gazette has since reported: “The discovery of [the] oil pipeline spill earlier this month in western North Dakota has received heightened attention because of the battle over the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL) being built about 150 miles to the southeast.”

Energy Transfer Partners has said that the DAPL pipeline would include safeguards, such as modern leak detection equipment, with workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas. It claims that staff could close valves within three minutes of a breach being detected.

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