The Belle Fourche pipeline that leaked into a small tributary of the Little Missouri river on 5 December 2016 is now estimated to have spilled over 500,000 gallons of oil. The company is continuing to investigate and uncover the cause of the leak, and has been contained. Although the hillside has been too unstable with snow and ice for investigators to get to the site for further investigation.

A spokesperson from the pipeline owner, True Companies, has issued a statement detailing that they have been able to retrieve flow rates and other pressure data to get a clearer view of what caused the rupture.

Last year the pipeline was shut down from 30 November for routine maintenance. During that time, heavy, wet snow on the line without pressure from the oil caused the hillside to slump. Bending the pipeline in two places, including a weld point.

“That would explain why the leak detection didn’t work,” “(The electronic monitoring system) is gonna go take a baseline, but if the baseline is a leak, it’s not going to catch it.” Bill Suess, North Dakota Spill Investigation Program Manager

The company has since implemented other strategies, Suess said, to improve their methods for catching that type of scenario.

“The technology on gathering systems is always tricky,” Suess said. “Unlike transmission lines, where there is a consistent volume from point a to b, with gathering lines you have multiple points. There might be a point A, a point B, C and D, and all those different areas can be on or offline, so it’s hard to measure the volume going through them because it’s not consistent.”

However, pressure data can help discern that there is a problem with the line of this nature. The clean-up operation is said to be going well, but a total amount for the State fine has not yet been decided.

Posted: 03 Apr, 2017