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Greenpeace Photos of an Oil Covered North Dakota Wheat Field

Greenpeace photos of an oil covered North Dakota wheat field show about 7 acres of contamination. Photos credit: Neal Lauron/Greenpeace.

Greenpeace photos of an oil covered North Dakota wheat field show about 7 acres of contamination. Photos credit: Neal Lauron/Greenpeace.

Another “backyard” experiences the realities of moving fossil fuels around the nation, as illustrated below in Greenpeace photos of an oil covered North Dakota wheat field. Steve Jensen discovered the break in a Tesoro pipeline as he was harvesting wheat. He reported it on September 29, but it took nearly two weeks for the state to make a public announcement. Go to an earlier post here for details.

Estimates of the amount oil “spewing” up about 6 inches, as Jensen described what he found, have varied. Today the AP, via ABC News, reports:

Scientists who helped calculate oil spilled from a broken BP well into the Gulf of Mexico are questioning the methodology used to estimate the amount of crude that recently leaked from a ruptured pipeline into a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota.

NorthDakotaPipelineSpill6ViaGreenpeace

Tesoro Corp. said it came up with its more than 20,000-barrel spill estimate using ground analysis. But oil spill experts say a more accurate assessment likely would come from calculating how much crude went into the pipeline versus what was supposed to come out at its terminus.

The area of contamination is about the “size of seven football fields,” and Tesoro first estimated the spill at about 750 barrels. That changed to about 20,600 barrels, or around 865,000 gallons, which makes it “one of the largest spills in North Dakota history.”

NorthDakotaPipelineSpill4ViaGreenpeace

At Grist, Joe Smyth writes about the time it took from Jensen’s initial reporting to authorities to the first public acknowledgement. He also focuses on why Tesoro didn’t detect the leak even earlier.

Beyond concerns that the public was kept in the dark about the oil spill for so long, Tesoro’s apparent failure to detect a loss of pressure in the pipeline as it leaked over 20,000 barrels of oil – nearly a million gallons – is particularly troubling. …

Tesoro’s director of emergency response said the hole in the pipeline was a quarter inch in diameter and ‘may have been caused by corrosion,’ while the chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission said ‘It started out as a small hole and got bigger.’

NorthDakotaPipelineSpill2ViaGreenpeace

Another in a growing list of “It happened in my backyard” stories from across the U.S.A.

(North Dakota pipeline spill photos by Greenpeace, used with permission. Credit: Neal Lauron/Greenpeace.)

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4 Responses to Greenpeace Photos of an Oil Covered North Dakota Wheat Field

  1. Cujo359 October 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Tesoro’s apparent failure to detect a loss of pressure in the pipeline as it leaked over 20,000 barrels of oil – nearly a million gallons – is particularly troubling. …

    If Tesoro’s description of the hole is an accurate one, it’s not terribly surprising, though. The pipeline is six inches in diameter. The loss in pressure from a quarter-inch hole probably wouldn’t be noticeable. In addition, that quote from the independent “experts” saying that you should use the amount of crude pushed into the pipeline as the basis for determining the spill size, rather than what comes out, implies to me that there may be smaller holes elsewhere. (Disclaimer: I’m not an “expert”, in fact, I’m not even sure how fluid dynamics would be applied in a case like this.)

    I suspect that’s the lesson we should be drawing here, but we should probably wait for the inevitable investigations.

    • Joyce Arnold October 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      Hoping for a professional, unbiased investigation … :)

  2. mjsmith October 17, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    U.S. has overtaken Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer on jump in output from shale

    US oil output has surged in last four years overtaking the world leader

    Total oil supplies include natural gas liquids, crude and biofuels

    Ramping up of shale production played major part in output surge

    US is world’s largest fuel consumer, but China is biggest crude importer

    http://tinyurl.com/my5x4hj

    • Joyce Arnold October 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Thanks for the link.

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