Oil spills and leaks

Written by  //  December 8, 2016  //  Canada, Environment & Energy, Oil & gas  //  3 Comments

Is Canada ready for an oil spill? (video)
(CBC) The Kinder Morgan pipeline will increase off B.C.’s coast. But an accident near Bella Bella suggests that Canada might not be able to handle a major oil spill
30 November
natural-gas-pipeline-fireSept. 9, 2010: A fire caused by an natural gas pipeline accident roars through San Bruno, California. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

30 Years of Oil and Gas Pipeline Accidents, Mapped
The sheer number of incidents involving America’s fossil fuel infrastructure suggests environmental concerns should go beyond Standing Rock
(CityLab) Oil industry supporters argue that pipelines are safer alternative to hauling fuel by tanker trucks or freight trains. “Environmental analysis comparing pipelines to rail finds pipelines will result in fewer incidents, barrels released, personal injuries, and greenhouse gas emissions,” says John Stoody, a spokesperson for the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, in a statement to CityLab. He cites an environmental impact statement conducted by the U.S. State Department comparing the impact of rail delivery of crude oil to that of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Additionally, a 2013 study from the conservative Manhattan Institute found that road transportation had an annual accident rate of 19.95 incidents per billion ton miles and rail transportation had 2.08 incidents per billion ton miles, compared to 0.89 incidents per billion ton miles for natural gas transmission and 0.58 serious incidents per billion ton miles for hazardous liquid pipelines.
Environmentalists, however, point to a lack of adequate state and federal regulation and the difficulties of maintaining millions of miles of aging pipeline infrastructure in their warnings about the dangers of spills, fires, and other accidents. And data from the federal government suggests such concerns should be taken seriously. Over the last twenty years, more than 9,000 significant pipeline-related incidents have taken place nationwide, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The accidents have resulted in 548 deaths, 2,576 injuries, and over $8.5 billion in financial damages. (Not counted in this total are thousands of less “significant” pipeline-related malfunctions.)
To better understand the extent of this damage, CityLab mapped out all significant pipeline accidents between 1986 and 2016, based on federal data compiled by Richard Stover, an environmental advocate and former research astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Stover points out the locations reflect the footprint of oil and gas pipeline distribution networks nationwide, suggesting that wherever pipelines are extended, deadly accidents will follow.
28 November
Can we contain oil spills? The answer is in the sheen
Tugboat sinking off B.C.’s central coast last month serves as case study on spill response
On Oct. 13, the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground and sank in the Seaforth Channel with 200,000 litres of diesel fuel on board.
Half of the diesel was removed without leaking into the ocean, but tens of thousands of litres escaped into the water and onto the beaches in the ecologically sensitive Great Bear Rainforest.
Containment booms were often unable to cope with the rough ocean conditions and broke, while skimmers and other mechanical efforts struggled to corral and recapture the fuel.
Marine spill consultant Gerald Graham, who’s testified at National Energy Board hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, says spill responders such as WCMRC have what amounts to a thankless task.
“It’s about dealing with a crisis — perhaps even an environmental catastrophe — where the public’s expectations will seldom, if ever, be satisfied,” he told CBC News.
‘Impossible to contain’
The takeaway for environmentalist Ian McAllister, who lives on Denny Island, just 25 minutes from the recent Bella Bella spill site, is that the wisest choice is to simply not allow the ships that cause the worst spills in the first place.
“It’s just impossible to contain a spill once it happens,” he said. “It’s watching helplessly and allowing Mother Nature to mitigate for years to come.”

Diesel escaped containment booms for weeks after the Nathan E. Stewart sank. (Heiltsuk Nation)

10 November
Tug recovery near Bella Bella still hampered by stormy weather
Photos provided by the Heiltsuk Nation show challenging conditions near Bella Bella, B.C.
Four weeks after a tug ran aground and sank near Bella Bella, the salvage operation continues on the North Coast of B.C.
The salvage company is trying to drag the tug over to a larger barge, but weather and tides continue to hamper the operation, according to Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett.
The tug has to be dragged about 300 metres across the sea floor to the barge before it can be hoisted out of the water, she said.
“They started yesterday afternoon and didn’t get very far but they worked throughout the night and were about 25 per cent complete,” said Slett on Thursday morning.
7 November
Justin Trudeau reveals plan to protect Canada’s coasts from oil spills
(Globe & Mail) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a $1.5-billion plan to ensure better protection of Canada’s coasts from a potential oil spill, a move that comes in the weeks before Ottawa is set to make a decision on whether to green-light Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The announcement also comes a day after Transportation Minister Marc Garneau acknowledged that oil-spill response resources on Canada’s West Coast are lacking. Premier Christy Clark has warned much work has to be done before the province could support the pipeline, on which Alberta has pinned its hopes as a vehicle to get its oil sands products to overseas markets.
Mr. Trudeau sought to separate the new oceans protection plan from the Kinder Morgan decision, saying the plan is “long overdue” without elaborating how the two fit together.
Canada’s oceans get $1.5 billion in marine protection
(RCInet) The federal government will invest $1.5 billion in an ocean protection strategy to safeguard the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans and make Canada a world leader in protecting coastlines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today in Vancouver.
The five-year funding program will protect Canada’s three oceans and coastline from “the damage that comes from shipping and pollution,” Trudeau said. It includes creating a marine safety system, restoring marine ecosystems, and spending on oil spill cleanup research and methods.
It also creates stronger partnerships with Indigenous and coastal communities, Trudeau said. The plan meets or exceeds international standards set by such pioneers in ocean protection as Alaska and Norway, Trudeau said.
Trudeau told a group in Vancouver that the funding will strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard, get tough on pollution from industry, fund coastal habitat restoration and create new legislation to increase responsibility for vessel owners.
1 November
Many spills of the past year are described in Canada: Energy, environment & pipelines 2016, however, the recent diesel spill in the waters off the Great Bear Rainforest is not a pipeline issue. The feeble response from federal and provincial authorities is simply disgraceful and deserves to be widely reviewed and corrected.
Weather could delay sunken boat’s removal from B.C. coast
(Globe & Mail) The Heiltsuk Nation on British Columbia’s central coast says salvage crews are ready to begin the process of raising a sunken tug for removal from Seaforth Channel.
But a release from the First Nation warns that a gale warning is in effect over the region, about 500 kilometres north of Vancouver, and all small boats have returned to port.
Winds up to 50 knots could delay plans the Heiltsuk say include work to reposition the Nathan E. Stewart from the site on a reef under nine metres of water just west of Bella Bella.
When possible, the 30-metre tug is expected to be moved to deeper water, where it will be raised and loaded onto a barge for removal from the ocean off the Great Bear Rainforest.
The tug ran aground nearly three weeks ago, tearing its hull and releasing more than 100-thousand litres of diesel and nearly 5,000 litres of lubricants.
Since then, large shellfish beds vital to the First Nation economy have been closed to harvesting and the Heiltsuk say a dead seal and otter have been recovered, along with a number of oiled birds.
30 October
It seems that Ottawa is waking up to the drastic nature of the problem, but it may well be too little and too late.
belle-bella-oil-spill-heiltsukFederal ministers head to Bella Bella to view diesel spill amid concerns over wildlife
‘The spill remains uncontained and the Nathan E. Stewart remains submerged,’ B.C.’s Heiltsuk Nation release
In a press release, the Heiltsuk First Nation said Dominic LeBlanc, the minister of fisheries, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, the minister of justice, are meeting with the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and Unified Command, which is a coalition of four government and Heiltsuk leaders.
Diesel fuel has been leaking from the Nathan E. Stewart tugboat, which was carrying 200,000 litres of fuel when it ran aground and sank about 28 kilometres from Bella Bella on Oct. 13.
29 October
Heiltsuk First Nation fears wildlife affected by diesel spill on B.C. coast
Response team collects dead species to test for cause of death
23 October
Petroleum disaster in the Great Bear Rainforest
By Joyce Nelson
“Outrage is the only word for what people are feeling after a tug and fuel barge, owned by Texas-based Kirby Offshore Marine, crashed on rocks in the heart of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest. It’s been leaking 200,000 litres of diesel fuel into the sensitive marine ecosystem ever since. The 30-metre Nathan E. Stewart tug was pushing the empty fuel barge DBL 55 south from Alaska where it had dropped off its petroleum cargo of 52,000 barrels of oil. It was operating without a local pilot in the complicated waters of the spectacular Inside Passage. Only three weeks ago, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, had visited the Great Bear Rainforest near Bella Bella, B.C. and were hosted there by the Heiltsuk First Nation, who have extensive clam, herring, salmon and other fisheries in the region now threatened by the sunken tug’s oil slick. The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest remaining tract of intact temperate rainforest in the world. It is home to Sandhill cranes, grizzly bears, grey wolves, humpback and orca whales, giant conifers, every species of wild salmon, and many other wild species. Ingmar Lee, an environmental activist who owns a popular eco-tourism business called C’idawai Point Cabins near Bella Bella, told me by email on Oct. 16 that there is “a veritable holocaust of helicopters flying over our house here at first light this morning. Texas personnel are out there shovelling money in any direction they can.” Meanwhile, “there are a large number of huge vessels languishing around on-scene, trying desperately to look busy, as though they’re doing something, anything,” and a dozen people are deploying pads and stringing booms “which are utterly useless in containing the damage.” More than a year ago, Lee had told a reporter that the Nathan E. Stewart tug was a “disaster waiting to happen.” At the site of the grounding, Kelly Brown, director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, told Global News on Oct. 14, “It’s really bad out here. A lot of fuel is on the beach already, and fuel is in the water.” Brown also called the initial response to the spills “totally inadequate. The first responding vessels were not equipped to deal with a spill, and had to return to town to gather more gear,” he said. “The Heiltsuk are providing our own equipment because what responders have been able to provide so far is insufficient.” ()
Since then, matters have not greatly improved.
Pedro Gregorio advises that “there is a relatively simple, Canadian-invented oil spill cleaning technology (Extreme Spill Technology) that is easy to deploy and recovers up to 95% of spilled fuel without using any surfactants or other nasty additives. The system is a clever — purely mechanical — separation system that exploits natural buoyancy as a driving mechanism for separation of oil from water. It is scalable, can be retrofitted into a dedicated ship or deployed as a tow-behind barge. The technology has been in development for more than 20 years with excellent results including full-scale deployment in open waters. The system has yet to come to market for lack of investment. Meanwhile we pour tons of money into ineffective mitigation strategies that leave coastlines and ecosystems destroyed. It is a tragedy.”
6 September
Major oil spill response improvements planned for B.C.
$200 million in upgrades will only go ahead if Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approved
(CBC) The organization responsible for cleaning up oil spills around Vancouver and B.C.’s South Coast has plans for major improvements to its facilities and spill response times — but the $200 million upgrades come with a catch: they won’t go ahead if the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project isn’t approved.
Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion plan, which would pump nearly 900,000 barrels of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands each day, has run into strong opposition along B.C.’s coast.
Environmental activists have clashed with police over the project, and various governments, including British Columbia, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria have voiced their opposition.
The pipeline expansion has received conditional approval from the National Energy Board, but the final decision, expected before the end of the year, rests with the federal cabinet.


6 August
Capping oil well blowouts within 24 hours too expensive, says Ottawa
Shell Canada Ltd. given up to 21 days to contain subsea blowouts
(CBC) The federal government says it is agreeing to an offshore drilling plan that would allow up to 21 days to bring in capping technology for a sub-File photo of fire boat response crews battling the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon off Louisianasea well blowout because requiring a shorter response time would be too expensive for Shell Canada Ltd.
Meanwhile, the most recent U.S. ruling in Alaska — where Shell wants to conduct an exploratory drilling project — requires a capping stack to be on hand for a blowout within 24 hours.[… Alberta-based oil and gas analyst Doug Matthews says the regulatory regime is much tighter in Canadian and American Arctic waters than off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. If an Arctic well blowout is not controlled before the ice moves in, Matthews says it could mean oil flowing uncontrollably for up to seven months and would “very much be a disaster.”]
Nova Scotia environmentalists are questioning why the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has signed off on a plan that allows between 12 and 21 days for the multinational company to bring a vessel and a capping system to the Shelburne Basin offshore site, about 250 kilometres off the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia.
Approval of Shell’s plan for exploratory drilling in the Shelburne Basin is up to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. The board says it is taking the environmental assessment into account, but won’t make a decision on whether to give the company the green light until later this year.
16 July
Nexen Pipeline Spills 5 Million Litres Of Emulsion Near Fort McMurray
(Canadian Press) A pipeline at Nexen’s Long Lake oilsands project in northeastern Alberta has failed, spilling an estimated five million litres of bitumen, produced water and sand.
The company, which was taken over by China’s CNOOC Ltd. in 2013, said the affected area is about 16,000 square metres, mostly along the pipeline’s route.
The company and the Alberta Energy Regulator say it’s too soon to say what might have caused the leak (CBC) One of the largest leaks in Alberta history has spilled about five million litres of emulsion from a Nexen Energy pipeline at the company’s Long Lake oilsands facility south of Fort McMurray.
8 July
oil tankers unit trains
Oil by rail: A changing landscape
5 crude oil derailments in 2013.
10 derailments in 2014
4 derailments within one month in 2015.
At this rate, the U.S. is on track to have the worst year ever for derailments involving oil-carrying trains.
(MadeinChicago) About 40 crude oil filled trains, each a mile-long, roll through Chicago every week, according to documents obtained from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. That’s about 17 million gallons – or 400 thousand barrels of Bakken crude – flowing through the city each day. …
Crude oil, unlike many of its hazardous freight predecessors, is often shipped in huge quantities that take up entire trains, known as unit trains. These unit trains, often over a mile long, link together between 70 and 120 tank cars. …
Much of that oil is extracted by hydraulic fracking in the Bakken oil fields, which spread across North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan, Canada. The oil, locked in bedrock, was considered unreachable not so long ago. But fracking releases the black gold by breaking open seams in the bedrock as pumps send a high-pressure cocktail of water and chemicals deep into the ground. Since the first successful major fracking operation by Brigham Oil & Gas in 2009, production in the region has expanded ten-fold.
From the Bakken region, the crude oil is either pumped through pipelines or, as is becoming more common, loaded into tank cars and shipped via rail to either the Gulf Coast, the East Coast or the West Coast.
Between 2008 and 2014 the number of carloads of crude oil in the United States jumped from just under 10,000 carloads a year to nearly half a million according to the Association of American Railroads.
Domestic crude oil, transported by rail, overtook imported crude to make up the majority of the supply to East Coast refiners for the first time in February 2015 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Flynn said this flow of oil by rail from the middle of the country to the East Coast is likely to remain steady for the next several years. He added that if the Keystone XL Pipeline were ever approved, it would result in another increase in the number of oil filled tank cars rambling across the country—right through Chicago’s South Side.
26 May
Mexico’s Pemex Plagued By Deadly Offshore Explosions and Major Pipeline Spills
In just over a month, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) starred in three tragic incidents, two fatal.
First was a deadly explosion aboard a Pemex offshore oil processing platform, which killed at least four, injured 16, and—despite the company’s comments to the contrary—looks to have spilled a miles-long plume of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. A mere 15 days later, a spill from a Pemex pipeline in the state of Tabasco fouled three rivers and temporarily left half a million people without access to drinking water. Fast forward three weeks, and another accident on an offshore rig killed two workers.
25 May
Pipeline company responsible for California oil spill has history of disasters in Alberta
(National Observer) As oil tars up the marine life and beaches of California and makes its way up the B.C. coast, the company responsible for the spill — Plains All American L.P.— is quietly expanding oil pipeline operations in Canada.
Plains is one of the biggest companies involved in western crude storage in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and is now working on a new 130-km Indigo pipeline in northern Alberta. The company pledges the “highest regard for environmental and safety regulations,” but has a history of large-scale oil spills on both sides of the border.

GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: A California brown pelican and California sea lion fish in oil-contaminated water from an inland oil spill near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

GOLETA, CALIFORNIA – MAY 20: A California brown pelican and California sea lion fish in oil-contaminated water from an inland oil spill near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

21 May
California investigates nine-mile oil slick
(BBC) Clean-up crews are working around the clock as investigators look into how tens of thousands of gallons of oil spewed into the sea off Santa Barbara.
More than 7,000 gallons (31,800 litres) of oil have been mopped from the spill – a fraction of the 20,000 gallons officials say spilled into the sea after a pipe burst on Tuesday.
Federal officials are to excavate the pipe to find clues to how it ruptured.
Up to 105,000 gallons spilled over a period of three hours on Tuesday – the majority of the oil remained on land.
Santa Barbara oil spill: Crude flowed ‘well below’ capacity in ruptured pipe
(CNN)The onshore pipeline behind this week’s Santa Barbara oil spill was operating “well below its maximum operating capacity” when it ruptured and leaked more than 100,000 gallons of crude on coastal lands and into the ocean, the oil company said Thursday.What caused the oil spill, however, remained under investigation.
Meanwhile, Plains All American Pipeline is among the worst violators listed by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration and surpassed all but four of more than 1,700 operators in reporting safety and maintenance infractions, the federal agency said.
The company has 175 federal safety and maintenance violations since 2006, responsible for more than 16,000 barrels in spills that have caused more than $23 million worth of property damage.
12 April
The arrival of man-made earthquakes.
(The New Yorker) Until 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of one to two earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater each year. (Magnitude-3.0 earthquakes tend to be felt, while smaller earthquakes may be noticed only by scientific equipment or by people close to the epicenter.)  In 2014, there were five hundred and eighty-five, nearly triple the rate of California. Including smaller earthquakes in the count, there were more than five thousand. This year, there has been an average of two earthquakes a day of magnitude 3.0 or greater.
William Ellsworth, a research geologist at the United States Geological Survey, told me, “We can say with virtual certainty that the increased seismicity in Oklahoma has to do with recent changes in the way that oil and gas are being produced.” Many of the larger earthquakes are caused by disposal wells, where the billions of barrels of brackish water brought up by drilling for oil and gas are pumped back into the ground. (Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—in which chemically treated water is injected into the earth to fracture rocks in order to access oil and gas reserves—causes smaller earthquakes, almost always less than 3.0.) Disposal wells trigger earthquakes when they are dug too deep, near or into basement rock, or when the wells impinge on a fault line.
10-11 April
Public relations campaign heats up over English Bay oil spill in Vancouver
(Straight) For environmentalists, the recent accident confirmed their worst fears about the dangers associated with the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline project. If approved, it will triple shipments of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to the Lower Mainland and bring a massive increase in tanker traffic to Burrard Inlet.
The pipeline-loving Conservative government looked utterly incompetent when it took 13 hours to notify the City of Vancouver about the spill.
It didn’t help the Conservatives’ image that they’re the same folks who eliminated the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. It’s about five minutes from where the M/V Marathassa had dropped anchor.
Vancouver Oil Spill: Ship That Leaked Fuel Into English Bay Had Malfunction
(CP via HuffPost) The leak began Wednesday evening, but officials only confirmed on Friday that the grain-carrying MV Marathassa was in fact the source of the leak. About 80 per cent of the bunker fuel that spilled has been cleaned up.
Transport Canada said the ship appeared to suffer a malfunction when it leaked about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel. The ship was built in Japan and had just come out of the shipyard in February.
17 February

derailed tanker train explosionTrains Hauling Crude Oil Across North America Just Keep Exploding.
More evacuations, fireballs, and oil spills.
A train hauling more than 100 tankers from North Dakota’s booming oil fields derailed during a snowstorm on Monday in West Virginia. The accident sparked massive explosions that prompted the evacuation of two nearby towns, and an oil spill that threatened the water supply of thousands of local residents.
The West Virginia accident on Monday is the second major derailment in three days across North America’s booming oil-by-rail network.
15 February
CN train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in Northern Ontario
A Canadian National Railway Co. train carrying 100 tank cars of crude oil derailed and caught fire in Northern Ontario early Sunday morning.
A CN spokesman said there were no injuries in the derailment that happened around midnight on Saturday about 80 kilometres south of Timmins, Ont., on the CN mainline in a remote area inaccessible by road.
Twenty-nine cars jumped the tracks and seven were still on fire on Sunday afternoon.


31 December
Railways search for a means to meet rising demands
North American railways became clogged during the long cold winter of 2013-14 and stayed that way for most of the year.
This year will be a test for rail companies’ abilities to get freight moving as they grapple with rising demands from shippers of everything from oil to grain and consumer goods. As always, the wild-card is the winter that is taking hold and can force railways to run shorter, slower trains and leave customers waiting. …
“We have the capacity to move everything that we produce in Western Canada, even if we don’t approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, [but only] if we run 24 hours a day, seven days a week and every commodity is lined up for regular shipments at set amounts.”
24 March
Exxon Valdez: what lessons have we learned from the 1989 oil spill disaster?
25 years since the oil tanker spilled millions of gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Alaska, we remain callously unprepared to mitigate a future oil spill in the Arctic waters
(The Gaurdian) In the end, the story of the Exxon Valdez remains a cautionary tale. While simply hoping for the best may be the cheapest way forward given the resources required to establish functional networks of community and government bodies willing and able to work together, accidents do and will continue to happen. If we are to secure the long-term health and security of the Arctic’s magnificent natural resources and vibrant indigenous cultures there can be little doubt concerning the value of both prevention and preparedness.
Guardian report on Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989

22 March
Why The Exxon Valdez Spill Was A Eureka Moment For Science
(NPR) On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.
Twenty-five years of research following the Exxon Valdez disaster has led to some startling conclusions about the persistent effects of spilled oil.
When the tanker leaked millions of gallons of the Alaskan coast, scientists predicted major environmental damage, but they expected those effects to be short lived. Instead, they’ve stretched out for many years.
What researchers learned as they puzzled through the reasons for the delayed recovery fundamentally changed the way scientists view oil spills. One of their most surprising discoveries was that long-lasting components of oil thought to be benign turned out to cause chronic damage to fish hearts when fish were exposed to tiny concentrations of the compounds as embryos.
Cordova, Alaska, was the fishing village closest to the spill. Since then it’s become a hub for scientists. Researchers recently gathered in the town’s library to talk about herring. It was the herring that tipped off scientists that oil’s effects were far more complicated than they had imagined.

CBC Interactive Pipeline map: Have there been any incidents near you?
From small to large-scale spills to fires, explosions and worker deaths
Through an access-to-information request, CBC News obtained a data set of every pipeline safety incident reported to the federal regulator in the past 12 years.
The National Energy Board oversees cross-border pipelines. The data doesn’t include smaller pipelines within provincial boundaries.
The documents reveal details about more than 1,000 incidents that have happened across the country since 2000 until late 2012 and suggest the rate of overall incidents has doubled in the past decade. (28 October 2013)

Hiland Crude Pipeline Spills Oil Near Alexander, ND
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Cleanup workers have contained about 34,000 gallons of crude that spewed from a broken oil pipeline in northwestern North Dakota, a state health official said Friday. A gasket on the above-ground pipeline appears to have failed near a compressor station, spewing about 800 barrels of crude.
5 February
Train Spills 12,000 Gallons Of Oil In Minnesota, No Major Cleanup Effort Planned
(ThinkProgress) 12,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from a Canadian Pacific Railway train on Monday in Minnesota, dribbling oil along the tracks for 68 miles, according to local media reports.
Officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Tuesday they would investigate the cause of the spill, but said no major cleanup effort was planned because of its relatively small size (one single tanker car carries 26,000 gallons) and the way that it happened: the tanker carrying the oil didn’t derail and leak all in one place, rather oil gradually splattered out of the car between the rails onto the track bed as the train was moving. The leak, according to the Star-Tribune, was traced to a valve or cap problem.
25 January
Explosion and fire rock natural gas pipeline in southern Manitoba
23 January
NTSB: Oil Train Crash Risks ‘Major Loss of Life’
(AP via ABC) The unusual joint recommendations by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada include better route planning for trains carrying hazardous materials to avoid populated and other sensitive areas.
They also recommended stronger efforts to ensure hazardous cargo is properly classified before shipment, and greater government oversight to ensure rail carriers that transport oil are capable of responding to “worst-case discharges of the entire quantity of product carried on a train.”
The NTSB also noted that it is still waiting for final action from government regulators on new requirements to improve the safety of tank cars used to transport oil. The safety board called for changes in the DOT-111 tank cars, which are used for a variety of flammable liquids, after a 2009 accident in Cherry Valley, Ill. The rules aren’t expected to be ready until next year. … The NTSB noted that crude oil shipments by rail have increased by more than 400 percent since 2005. Some oil trains are more than 100 cars long.
Transportation Safety Board calls for tougher standards for rail tank cars
TSB recommends immediate safety assessments for transport of dangerous goods
Nearly 20 years after the Transportation Safety Board first recommended “immediate action” on unsafe railway tank cars, the national safety investigator issued a new clarion call Thursday urging governments to act.
9 January
Pressure mounts for rail car rules after N.B. derailment
Two of the cars that derailed in a fiery New Brunswick train crash were older model tankers that have been criticized as more prone to rupture during an accident, Canadian National Railway Co. says.
The accident has raised new questions about the safety of shipping potentially volatile light crude by rail. It is also placing added pressure on governments to come up with new regulations for the DOT-111 tank cars, which are commonly used to haul crude oil in North America.
8 January
New Brunswick train derailment fire renews questions of oil-by-rail’s dangers
A fiery derailment in New Brunswick Tuesday night was the third time a crude-laden train has caught fire in recent weeks.
Three of the tank cars that derailed in New Brunswick on Tuesday night were loaded at a terminal in southwestern Manitoba, Canadian National Railway Co. said. The location raises the question of whether some of the oil originated in the Bakken region.
A total of 17 cars carrying crude oil, liquefied petroleum gas and other goods derailed near Plaster Rock on Tuesday evening, causing fireballs and a huge plume of black smoke. No one was injured. Five of the tankers carried crude and were on their way to Irving Oil’s refinery in Saint John, N.B.
1 January
North Dakota Train Fire Adds Fuel to Keystone XL Debate
(Bloomberg) The derailment and fire that led to the evacuation of a North Dakota town has renewed the debate over whether it’s safer to ship oil by rail or pipeline as the U.S. completes a review of the Keystone XL project.
Public safety officials urged more than 2,000 North Dakota residents to flee fumes from the fire that engulfed BNSF Railway Co. cars carrying oil after a collision Dec. 30 with another train about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Fargo. BNSF is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) of Omaha. The evacuation was lifted yesterday at 3 p.m. local time after health officials declared the air safe.
While climate change has been the focus of the fight over TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP) proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, a subset in the debate has been the relative safety of pipes versus trains. The U.S. State Department, reviewing the $5.4 billion project because it would cross the U.S. border, is weighing whether the pipeline would be in the national interest.
Keystone would allow about 100,000 barrels a day of crude from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota onto the pipeline through a link in Baker, Montana.


31 December
North Dakota Derailment Shows Dark Side of America’s Oil Boomfireball Casselton ND derailment
As shipments of oil by rail skyrocket, environmentalists worry about the toll of hauling America’s crude
(TIME) With the middle of the country brimming with crude oil thanks to the shale revolution in North Dakota — as well as Canadian oil sands crude coming down from Alberta — there’s a desperate need to move oil to markets on the Gulf Coast and East Coast. With pipeline construction slower, and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline still being debated, oil companies have turned to rail, which can quickly connect remote areas of production to markets. The rail industry is now hauling more crude than at any time since the days of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil a century ago. All of which raises the question: Is all this safe?
Yes and no. Compared to moving oil by pipeline, shipping it by rail carries a greater risk of catastrophic accidents and death, for the simple reason that trains, more than pipelines, travel through populated areas. Should something go wrong — as it did in Lac-Megantic in July — the consequences can be horrendous. That said, accidents remain extremely rare; according to data from the Association of American Railroads, 99.9977% of rail hazmat shipments, which includes crude oil, reach their destination without a spill.
Pipelines spill more often than rail — over the past decade, pipelines have spilled 474,441 barrels of oil, compared to the 2,268 barrels spilled over the same time by rail. Pipeline spills also tend to be larger than rail spills — witness the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, when a burst pipeline led to more than 23,000 barrels of oil pouring into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Fears over similar accidents have helped put the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on hold (environmentalists have raised concerns that spills involving oil sands crude will be especially difficult to clean). But pipeline spills remain rare as well, and the ones that do occur pose a more direct threat to the environment than to people — unlike rail accidents.
22 November
Leaked oil from ruptured Chinese pipeline triggers huge explosions, leaving at least 35 dead
(Financial Post) Leaked oil from a ruptured pipeline in an eastern Chinese port city exploded Friday, killing at least 35 people, injuring 166 and contaminating the nearby sea in one the country’s worst industrial accidents of the year, authorities said.
The leaked oil triggered two huge blasts, one of them tearing up concrete along a city road in Qingdao. Photos posted online showed ripped slabs of pavement, bodies, overturned vehicles and shattered windows in nearby buildings. Black smoke rose above gigantic fuel silos and darkened much of the sky.
The pipeline owned by China’s largest oil refiner, Sinopec, ruptured early Friday and leaked for about 15 minutes onto a street and into the sea before it was shut off. Hours later, as workers cleaned up the spill, the oil caught fire and exploded in two locations, the city government said.
14 November
Dents and bad welds dog southern leg of Keystone XL
(The Tyee) So many dents, bad welds and “anomalies” have been identified along the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in southern Texas that the U.S. pipeline regulator has issued Calgary-based TransCanada a number of blunt warning letters.
The $2.3-billion construction project, which crosses 631 rivers and streams in Texas, will ferry 700,000 barrels of oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas.
But it has also been a conduit for high controversy as landowners in two states have documented at least 125 excavations of newly planted pipe to repair dents, sags and damaged coatings.
According to a new report by the nonprofit group Public Citizen, one TransCanada representative confessed that there were as many as 70 anomalies in one 60-mile stretch alone.
On Sept. 10, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) warned the company that it had committed probable pipeline violations by carelessly installing a pipeline into a ditch and denting it in several locations during the construction of its Keystone Gulf Coast project.
8 November
Train carrying crude oil explodes, spills oil into Alabama wetlands
(LATimes) A 90-car train derailed and exploded in rural Alabama early Friday morning, spilling its crude oil cargo into the surrounding wetlands and igniting a fire so intense that officials said it will take 24 hours to burn out. No one was injured.
The train was crossing a timber trestle above a wetland near Aliceville late Thursday night when 20 railcars and two of three locomotives derailed. Earlier reports said fewer cars had derailed.
On Friday morning, about 10 train cars were burning, according to a statement from train owner Genesee & Wyoming.
28 October
Pipeline safety incident rate doubled in past decade
Database gives detailed picture of 1,047 reported problems
Pipelines regulated by the federal government — which include some of the longest lines in the country — have experienced a swell in the number of safety-related incidents over the past decade, documents obtained by CBC News suggest.
In recent months, a spate of oil and gas spills both from train derailments and pipelines have raised questions about what mode of transport is the safest.
The pipeline industry has touted its record as it seeks support for numerous controversial projects across the continent, including TransCanada’s Keystone XL to the U.S. Gulf Coast and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway to the B.C. coast.
25 October
North Dakota recorded 300 oil spills in two years without notifying the public
AP obtained records of 750 ‘oil field incidents’ after officials kept the massive September wheat field spill quiet until discovered
(The Guardian) North Dakota officials have urged pipeline industry to officials to quickly — and safely — expand the network to keep pace with record production in the oil patch. The state has about 17,500 miles of pipelines, including the addition last year of 2,470 miles, roughly the distance from New York City to Los Angeles.
For weeks, no one knew about a Tesoro Corporation pipeline that broke 29 September in a remote area near Tioga. Officials say no water was contaminated or wildlife hurt, but the spill was one of the largest in North Dakota’s history, estimated at 20,600 barrels. Oil oozed over an area the size of seven football fields.
Records obtained by the AP show that so far this year, North Dakota has recorded 139 pipeline leaks that spilled a total of 735 barrels of oil. In 2012, there were 153 pipeline leaks that spilled 495 barrels of oil, data show. A little more than half of the spills companies reported to North Dakota occurred “on-site,” where a well is connected to a pipeline, and most were fewer than 10 barrels. The remainder of the spills occurred along the state’s labyrinth of pipelines.
21 October
CN still working to get residents home after Alberta derailment
More than 100 people waiting to return home 3 days after derailment
(CBC) Thirteen cars carrying oil and liquefied petroleum gas went off the rails near Gainford, about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton early Saturday.
Alberta train derailment renews fears over moving oil by rail
A train carrying propane and crude that crashed in the hamlet of Gainford, Alta., early Saturday morning is once again raising questions about the safety of moving oil by rail in Canada, particularly in the wake of July’s fatal rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que. No one was hurt in Gainford, but it was Canadian National Railway Co.’s third notable derailment in the past month involving hazardous materials, and it caused explosions and fire on both sides of a four-line highway.
11 October
Burst oil pipeline spewed crude, N. Dakota farmer says
(CBC) A North Dakota farmer who discovered an enormous oil spill while harvesting wheat says crude was bubbling up out of the ground when he found it.
Tesoro oil spill: over 20,000 barrels seep into North Dakota wheat field
(AP via The Guardian) Officials say the seven-acre spill, allegedly from a quarter-inch hole in the pipeline, has not contaminated any water sources (Reuters) – Initial investigation suggests pipeline corrosion led to a 20,600 barrel oil leak from a Tesoro Logistics LP pipeline in North Dakota, the state Public Service Commission said on Friday.
11 September
Lac-Mégantic: Train carried mislabeled crude oil, safety board says
Safety board admits more dangerous and flammable crude oil doesn’t require higher safety standards even though it advocates for stronger tanker cars.
(Toronto Star) The crude oil came from the Bakken oilfield in the North Dakota. It came from 11 different suppliers and some of the shipments were rated class 1, the most volatile. When the crude was transported by road to the train cars, it was labelled as class 2. However, “it was shipped by rail as (class) 3,” Ross added. He did not explain how the labelling was suddenly changed.
4 September
Enbridge’s Kalamazoo cleanup dredges up 3-year-old oil spill
Residents near massive oil spill differ on how Enbridge has dealt with the mess
(CBC) Three years after an Enbridge pipeline ruptured and spilled 3.3 million litres of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the company is still cleaning up and learning lessons about the way diluted bitumen behaves in fresh water.
The biggest lesson, simply put, is that bitumen sinks.
The Kalamazoo incident is the largest inland spill in the history of the U.S., and has already cost Enbridge more than $1 billion. … The EPA believes there is at least 684,000 litres of bitumen still in the river.
31 July
Old wells blamed for CNRL oil sands leaks
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said faulty engineering on old wells is responsible for bitumen leaking to the surface of an oil-sands project, and the company did some of the work itself.
CNRL believes bitumen made softer through steaming reached the surface unintentionally by travelling up old vertical wells and escaping when it hit defective spots in the casing or cement. Under pressure, the bitumen squirted into natural cracks in the rock layers and moved upward. … The leaks underscore how newer oil-sands technology, which the energy industry touts as key to carbon reduction and a smaller physical footprint in the oil patch, can cause unanticipated problems.
29 July
Alberta Cold Creek oil spill

Photo credit: CNRL/Emma Pullman

Alberta oil spills cause concern over Canada’s approval of tar sands project
Spillages creating toxic ponds harming forests, killing wildlife and contaminating ground water, campaigners say
(The Guardian) News has emerged of four bitumen spillages in recent months which have polluted water and land at a site at Cold Lake, Alberta, run by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL), killing birds, beavers, frogs and shrews and damaging habitats.
Regulators and the company involved insist they are working hard to tackle the problem at the site, which falls within the traditional territory of the indigenous Beaver Lake Cree Nation, and investigate why it happened.
But the co-operative, which has backed the Beaver Lake Cree’s legal fight against tar sands over concerns extraction interferes with their constitutionally-protected rights to hunt, fish and gather plants in the area, has hit out at the news.
25 July
Cold Lake oil spill leaking for months: Documents
Underground oil spills at an Alberta oilsands operation have been going on much longer than previously thought, according to new documents. Files released to the Toronto Star show the spills were discovered nine weeks ago, but new documents show that bitumen has been leaking since the winter.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. operates the Primrose oilsands facility three hours northeast of Edmonton where four ongoing underground oil blowouts have contaminated forest, muskeg, a lake and have already killed dozens animals including beavers, ducks and birds. According to a government scientist who has been to the site, neither government or industry are able to stop the spills.
CNRL’s Primrose East and South operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called Cyclical Steam Stimulation or CSS, which involves injecting millions of gallons of 300-degree steam hundreds of feet into the ground through a single wellhead for weeks or months in order to heat and liquefy the hard bitumen which is then pumped out.
According to publicly available AER documents filed by the company, CNRL had 18 reportable spills in 2012 in addition to 18 confirmed well casing failures in 2012.

We certainly do not think that oil spills are a laughing matter, BUT not to be missed is  The Front Fell Off, the mock interview from Clarke and Dawe of an Australian politician based on the 1991 oil spill resulting from a tanker breaking in two.
Oil spill – Gulf of Mexico
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Facts – provides both general and highly specific information about the spill and its aftermath
Oil Spills ‘Round the World: The 2011 Edition (as of August)


19 July
Probe of Lac-Mégantic train disaster turns to composition of oil
Globe & Mail) … Some oil extracted from the Bakken fields has been found to contain high levels of the foul-smelling hydrogen sulphide vapour, which is flammable, corrosive, poisonous and explosive. The gas is formed below ground when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen.
Another question is whether the oil contained high levels of flammable hydrogen sulphide gas, which is sometimes present in Bakken oil.
Although hydrogen sulphide is a common impurity in oil and gas extraction, there is a debate over whether Bakken crude contains dangerous levels of it. In May, pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. filed regulatory documents to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking permission to refuse to ship Bakken crude with extremely high levels of hydrogen sulfide through its pipelines. Enbridge said in a submission to the commission that it wanted to ensure “the safe operation of its system and the health and safety of its employees.”
2 July
University of Alberta scientists may have a solution to aid in oil spill cleanups
(RCI) A major part of the problem is that cleanup becomes extremely difficult and costly once the oil sticks to a surface, whether that be rocks or sand or plants, birds or the sea floor and marine life.
Canadian engineering researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton have developed a promising way to help with clean ups.
While study of how petroleum sticks to various materials on land is relatively easy, trying to study this in a marine environment, ie under water, is very complex.
In trying to develop techniques to perform such underwater studies Professor Sushanta Mitra and his team which includes Prashant Waghmare, and Siddhartha Das, developed a simple material that repels oil, creating a barrier and preventing it from coming into contact with surfaces underwater
26 April
2nd largest pipeline spill in Alberta history leads to charges
Plains Midstream faces 3 charges in massive pipeline leak near Little Buffalo in 2011
(CBC) The company that owns a pipeline that leaked 28,000 barrels of crude oil near a First Nations community in northwest Alberta — the largest spill in the province in 35 years — is now facing environmental charges.
Plains Midstream Canada ULC is facing three counts under the province’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act:
The April 2011 spill of almost 4.5 million litres of oil contaminated eight acres of beaver ponds and muskeg in a densely forested area.
4 April
Leaking Pipeline Offers Warning on Keystone XL Proposal
(IPS) … Anthony Swift, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a watchdog group… noted that bitumen oil pipelines require higher operating temperatures that make ruptures more likely, citing a study that found that states that carried bitumen oil for the longest periods had experienced 3.6 times as many spills as the national average. … “TransCanada’s Bison and Keystone I pipelines had special conditions that were supposed to make them safer. The Keystone I pipeline had to be shut down in its first year after having 14 spills,” he said.
CP oil spill in northern Ontario larger than first reported
(Globe & Mail) At about 7:50 Wednesday morning, 22 rail cars derailed about 10 kilometres west of White River, a small northern Ontario town. Two of those cars leaked light oil.
… The spill comes as pipeline shortages push growing volumes of oil onto trains. Rail tank cars are now moving oil across the continent from both the Bakken oil play in North Dakota and, increasingly, from both light and heavy oil fields in Canada.
The advent of rail transport has sparked a debate about the relative safety of oil pipelines compared to trains. Industry statistics have shown that trains have more spills. The rail industry argues that its spills are smaller, and it therefore spills less than pipelines. Some statistics show otherwise, however, and pipeline companies have argued that buried pipe is the safest method. Backers of rail movements, meanwhile, have argued that heavy oil – the kind that flows from the oil sands – can be moved more safely on tracks.
3 April
After Oil Spill in Arkansas, Weighing Risks of Keystone Pipeline Extension
(PBS Newshour) An oil pipeline rupture caused the evacuation of more than 20 homes in Mayflower, Ark. The accident raised questions about the safety of the proposed Keystone Pipeline extension. Judy Woodruff hears debate from Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Andrew Black of the Association of Oil Pipelines.
2 April
Canadian Pacific oil spill cleanup to last two days
(Planet Ark) The cleanup was expected to take another day or two, officials said, after 14 cars on a 94-car train heading for the Chicago area left the tracks on Wednesday about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis near the town of Parkers Prairie.
The spill, which has triggered an investigation by federal officials, came as a debate rages over the environmental risks of transporting Alberta tar sands crude across the border from Canada.
This was the first major spill since a boom in North American oil production began to outgrow the existing pipeline network, prompting a huge rise in crude-by-rail transport three years ago.
Arkansas Oil Spill Raises Scrutiny of Pipeline Network
(Bloomberg) Exxon’s pipeline, known as Pegasus, can carry 96,000 barrels a day. The 20-inch (51-centimeter) line runs to Nederland, Texas, from Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline carried a type of dilbit similar to what would be transported on Keystone.
One question central to the debate is whether this type of fuel is more corrosive than conventional crude.
Fuel from Alberta’s oil sands can pose a greater risk if it is transported at a higher temperature or under greater pressure, Richard Kuprewicz, president of Accufacts Inc., a Redmond, Washington-based pipeline safety consultant, said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Operators using modern pipeline-safety techniques can manage the risks by cleaning out the line more frequently or carefully monitoring how the bitumen is diluted, he said.
1 April
Oily Ducks Found Following Arkansas Oil Spill
(ABC News) About 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered since ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline sprung a leak, spewing oil onto lawns and roadways and nearly fouling a nearby lake.
Will Arkansas oil spill viral video derail Keystone XL?
Ugly video of an Arkansas oil spill has Americans up in arms.
(Toronto Star) Pictures don’t lie. And as much as some would like to write off the oil-drenched images flying across Facebook and Twitter today as an April Fool’s joke gone rogue, they are real.
That actually is a river of Alberta crude gushing into through an Arkansas suburb. And gushing onward to Youtube, virally, throughout Easter weekend.
31 March
Arkansas Exxon spillKeystone plan attacked after thousands of barrels of Canadian crude spills from Exxon pipeline
(National Post) Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued cleanup of a pipeline spill that loosed thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude in Arkansas as opponents of oil sands development latched on to the incident to attack plans to build the Keystone XL line.
Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day of crude from Pakota, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, was shut after the leak was discovered late Friday afternoon in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower. The leak forced the evacuation of 22 homes. …

Whether it’s the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, or … [the] mess in Arkansas, Americans are realizing that transporting large amounts of this corrosive and polluting fuel is a bad deal for American taxpayers and for our environment

(Globe & Mail) A company spokesman confirmed the line was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude. That grade is a heavy bitumen crude diluted with lighter liquids to allow it to flow through pipelines, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), which referred to Wabasca as “oil sands” in a report. …  The Arkansas spill was the second incident this week where Canadian crude has spilled in the United States. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.
28 March
Elizabeth May: New and Improved Oil Spills!
Harper’s public relations and spin team hit Vancouver last week to unveil their super-duper enviro-protection plan for pipelines and tankers. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Minister of Transport Denis Lebel described their new regime for oil spill safety against the backdrop of the Port of Vancouver. On CTV Power Play, Oliver went so far as to say the Exxon Valdez spill could never happen in Canada. What should no longer surprise me is how little was unveiled.
In March of last year, Budget 2012 promised more pipeline inspections and new tanker regulations. Then ministers claimed the new measures were in the budget omnibus bill C-38. Since C-38 was over 400 pages long, perhaps they did not expect anyone to read it. Maybe they never read it themselves, as Minister Oliver trumpeted then, “Mr. Speaker, the bill will do a great deal to protect the environment… As I mentioned in my remarks, tankers will have to be double-hulled, there will be mandatory pilotage, there will be enhanced navigation, there will be aerial surveillance and additional measures will be taken in particular cases when necessary.”
14 March
Kalamazoo cleanupEPA orders Enbridge to do additional dredging in Kalamazoo River to clean up oil from 2010 spill
The order, which came down Thursday, requires Enbridge to do the dredging in sections of the river above Ceresco Dam near Battle Creek and in Morrow Lake in Comstock Township.
The order comes more than two years after a 30-inch pipeline owned by Enbridge ruptured near Marshall and then traveled about 35 miles downstream before being contained. More at Oil spill in Kalamazoo River
5 February
Canada not ready for major offshore spill: watchdog
(WEN/Planet Ark) Canada’s offshore petroleum boards are not equipped to cope with a major spill, the country’s environmental watchdog warned on Tuesday in a report that also said the booming energy sector needed more oversight.
Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan said in a report that unless Canada improved its record on environmental regulation, resource customers might be deterred.
His conclusions are sensitive for the ruling pro-business Conservatives, who expect some C$650 billion ($650 billion) of new investments in natural resource projects over the next decade and want more extraction of oil, gas and metals.
30 January
Dutch court says Shell responsible for Nigeria spills

(Reuters) – A Dutch court ruled on Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for a case of oil pollution in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay damages in a decision that could open the door to further litigation. …
A legal expert said the ruling could make it possible for other Nigerians who say they also suffered losses due to Shell’s activities to file lawsuits in the Netherlands.
“The fact that a subsidiary has been held responsible by a Dutch court is new and opens new avenues,” said Menno Kamminga, professor of international law at Maastricht University.
The court did not just examine the role of the parent company, but also looked “at abuses committed by Shell Nigeria, where the link with the Netherlands is extremely limited,” he said. “That’s a real breakthrough.”
28 January
Battling Big Oil: How Four Nigerian Villagers Took Shell to Court
(Spiegel) Four Nigerian villagers from the Niger River delta have challenged mighty Shell in a Dutch court. They complain that the oil giant has caused environmental devastation and ruined their homes. A verdict in the unprecedented case is expected on Wednesday.
No matter how the case turns out, the fact that a major corporation is being sued for the first time in a European court for environmental damage in a developing country will have consequences. Until this suit, energy companies had seemed largely immune to lawsuits from the developing countries where they produce their oil and gas. Dutch judges could choose to set an example in the Shell case — as well as creating a legal debt of sorts. In the future, people who live in countries where European companies benefit from a lack of legal enforcement may be granted recourse to assert their rights.


Nigeria Exxon spill spreads for miles along coast
(WEN/Planet Ark) An oil spill at an ExxonMobil facility offshore from the Niger Delta has spread at least 20 miles from its source, coating waters used by fishermen in a film of sludge.
A Reuters reporter visiting several parts of Akwa Ibom state saw a rainbow-tinted oil slick stretching for 20 miles from a pipeline that Exxon had shut down because of a leak a week ago. Locals scooped it into jerry cans.
The U.S. major’s outage comes on top of multiple production problems in Africa’s biggest crude exporter, after fellow oil majors Shell and Eni reported disruptions at onshore sites due to oil theft and Nigeria’s worst flooding in 50 years.
19 September
BP shuts down Norwegian oil field after leak
(Planet Ark) BP shut a Norwegian oil and gas field after a potentially dangerous leak, the company said on Tuesday, six days after the incident forced the emergency shutdown of the facility.
“A substantial escape of hydrocarbons occurred on the Ula field in the Norwegian North Sea on 12 September,” the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) said. “The PSA considers the incident to have had a substantial potential.”
BP … said it shut the field and will not resume production until “the causes of the incident have been clarified and the conditions rectified.”
31 August
US orders major Enbridge oil pipeline review after leak
(Planet Ark) The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it added new conditions to this week’s corrective action order for the restart of Line 14 to address failures on that pipeline as well as a string of others in recent years on its US system, part of the world’s longest network for transporting oil and petroleum products.
Enbridge responded immediately, saying it would submit the new plan by day’s end and that many of the improvements sought on the US system were already under way. But regulators who have made no secret of their dismay and anger over a series of recent leaks on Enbridge lines must still approve the plan.
29 July
Enbridge races to clean up Wisconsin oil spill, restart line
(Reuters) Just two months ago, Enbridge kicked off one of the most sweeping expansions in its history, announcing a multibillion-dollar series of projects aimed at moving western Canada and North Dakota oil to Eastern refineries and eliminating costly bottlenecks in the U.S. Midwest.
28 July
U.S. agency launches probe after [another!] Enbridge oil spill
(Globe & Mail) The U.S. pipeline safety agency launched an investigation on Saturday into an oil spill in Wisconsin on Enbridge Inc’s network that forced the partial shutdown of a main artery carrying light sweet Canadian crude to Chicago-area refineries.
Enbridge’s 318,000 barrel per day Line 14 pipeline, part of the Lakehead system, was shut after an estimated 1,200 barrels of oil were leaked. This happened almost two years to the day after another major spill in a different section of the line, in Michigan.
The news will not help Enbridge build public trust in its network, which has come under scrutiny following several high-profile incidents, including a spill in Alberta last month and the massive leak in Michigan two years ago.
27 July
Enbridge gets OK to reverse pipeline flow east
National Energy Board approves change with safety conditions attached
(CBC) Landowners, environmental and aboriginal groups had the opportunity to express their views with respect to the safety of the pipeline and possible impacts resulting from any possible accident or malfunction during public hearings which took place in London, Ont., in May.
The project involves infrastructure additions and modifications at four existing sites along the pipeline segment.
The reversal is expected to cost $16.9 million.
Meanwhile, Enbridge announced late Friday that it had contained a spill from a pipeline running through Grand Marsh, Wisconsin. A news release said the spill of roughly 1,200 barrels was confined to a field that is part of the pipeline right-of-way.
25 July
Enbridge’s Quiet $765 Million Oil Spill
(Bloomberg) The 2010 Enbridge Oil Pipeline Spill
July 25 marks the second anniversary of the nation’s most costly oil pipeline accident — a rupture that dumped more than 1.1 million gallons of heavy crude into a creek that feeds Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
12 July
Enbridge says pipeline safe after NTSB blasts company
(Planet Ark) Enbridge Inc, stung by a harsh rebuke from regulators over a 2010 spill that dumped more than 20,000 barrels of crude into a Michigan river system, has stepped up inspections and is confident its pipeline network is safe, the company’s incoming chief executive said on Wednesday.
Enbridge Execs Got Big Pay Raises After Continent’s Costliest Pipeline Spill
CEO’s salary jumped 35 per cent to $8.1 million just months after disaster.
By Andrew Nikiforuk, TheTyee.ca
“Safety has always been core to our operations,” added Stephen J. Wuori, president of liquids pipelines, who received one of the biggest raises at the firm after the 2010 spill. “Our intent from the beginning of this incident has been to learn from it so we can prevent it from happening again, and to also share what we have learned with other pipeline operators.”
Back on Sept. 10, 2010, in testimony to the U.S. Congress, Wuori claimed, “By next week, we will have completed the bulk of the clean up” on the Michigan spill.
The clean-up, however, continued for 23 months and submerged bitumen still remains in the river. [Emphasis added]
11 July
Oil Firm Responded to Kalamazoo Spill ‘Like Keystone Cops’
A scathing report finds that Enbridge overlooked warning signs for five years before the 2010 spill that exposed 320 people to crude.
(The Guardian via Mother Jones) The scathing report had been much anticipated. Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation fined Enbridge $3.7 million for the spill—the largest such fine in US history.
But Enbridge could be facing further action. NTSB investigations have a strong reputation in Washington, and the agency has a good record for seeing its safety recommendations put into practice.
Enbridge handled Michigan spill like ‘Keystone Cops,’ says U.S. regulator
(Canada.com) [National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Debbie] Hersman noted that the company took 17 hours after the initial alarm before taking action, and she added that the company failed to take action despite knowing for years that the pipeline suffered from corrosion dating back to 2004.
She made the comments while revealing the NTSB’s findings on the probable cause of a massive bitumen crude spill in Michigan in 2010 involving a pipeline owned by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc., the proponent of the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast.
21 June
‘Magnetic emulsions’ could clean up oil spills
(BBC) Researchers have unveiled a molecule that can make “magnetic emulsions”, which has the potential to revolutionise the chemical industry.
30 May
Rainbow Lake Oil Spill 2012: 22,000 Barrels Spill In Northwestern Part Of Alberta
An oil spill that went undetected for days has released 22,000 barrels of oil into northeastern Alberta’s muskeg, news sources report.The spill, an emulsion composed of oil and water, came from a waste disposal line owned by Pace Oil and Gas, and was evidently only discovered when an aircraft from another oil company made a routine flyover in the area on May 19, the Calgary Herald reports. The spill is “among the largest in North America in recent years,” reports the Globe and Mail.
19 March
Brazil Chevron Oil Leak Charges To Focus On Safety
(WEN/Planet Ark) A Brazilian prosecutor plans to allege this week that Chevron and Transocean should not have drilled a deep-water well that leaked in November, legal documents showed, giving a glimpse into expected criminal charges that could slow the rush to develop Brazil’s vast offshore oil wealth.
3 January
Brazil Cites Chevron Third Time For Oil Spill

(Planet Ark) Brazil’s oil industry watchdog ANP said on Friday it issued a third citation against Chevron for a November oil spill at the Frade offshore field, signaling that regulators are stepping up oversight of the No. 2 U.S. oil company’s offshore operations in Brazil.
ANP can fine Chevron up to 50 million reais ($26.8 million) for each citation.
Chevron failed to put in practice procedures that would slow the depletion of reservoirs at the well 9-FR-50DP-RJS in the Frade field, ANP said in a statement sent to reporters by email.
Accusations Fly As Oil Slick Hits Nigeria Coast
(Planet Ark) Nigerian villagers say oil washing up on the coast comes from a Royal Dutch Shell loading accident last month that caused the biggest spill in Africa’s top producer in more than 13 years.
Shell denies that any of the oil is from its 200,000 barrel per day (bpd) Bonga facility, 120 km offshore and accounting for 10 percent of monthly oil flows, which was shut down by the spill on December 20


27 December
Shell Says Nigeria Oil Spill Contained
Royal Dutch Shell said on Tuesday that an oil spill offshore Nigeria, the largest in the oil-producing African nation since 1998, has been contained after less than 40,000 barrels leaked into the Atlantic.
The spill comes four months after a U.N. report criticized Shell and the Nigerian government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in a region of the Niger Delta which it says needs the world’s largest ever oil clean-up, costing an initial $1 billion and taking up to 30 years.
27 November
Analysis: Chevron Spill Lifts Cover On Brazil Oil Risks
Brazil’s government has been quick to vilify Chevron Corp for an offshore oil spill, but the biggest victim of the accident could turn out to be its own ambitious dream of exploiting its new oil riches.
(Planet Ark) The second-largest U.S. oil company has emerged bruised from a week in which it was fined $28 million, had its local chief executive hauled in front of Congress and then had its Brazilian drilling rights suspended as punishment for the undersea leak estimated at 2,400 barrels. The more lasting legacy of the spill may be an awareness that Brazil has overestimated its capacity to exploit deep, technically challenging “subsalt” reserves and become the world’s third- or fourth-biggest oil producer by 2020.
10 November
Shell must pay US$1 billion in first step to clean up Niger Delta
Shell must commit to pay an initial US$1 billion to begin the clean-up of pollution caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) said today.
A new report by the two groups released today, The true tragedy: delays and failures in tackling oil spills in the Niger Delta looks at the ongoing devastation caused by two major oil spills which took place at Bodo, Ogoniland, in 2008, and which have never been cleaned up.
Shell, which recently reported profits of US$ 7.2bn for July-September, initially offered the Bodo community just 50 bags of rice, beans, sugar and tomatoes as relief for the disaster.
18 July
BP pipeline leaks oily mixture onto Alaskan tundra
(Reuters) BP reported yet another pipeline leak at its Alaskan oilfields, frustrating the oil giant’s attempts to rebuild its reputation after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
BP said on Monday that a pipeline at its 30,000 barrel per day Lisburne field, which is currently closed for maintenance, ruptured during testing and spilled a mixture of methanol and oily water onto the tundra.
15 July
China Oil Spill Six Times Size of Singapore: Govt
(Common Dreams) A huge oil spill off the Chinese coast has now contaminated an area around six times the size of Singapore, state media reported Friday, as the government said it may seek compensation for the leak.
The spill from the oil field, which the United States’ ConocoPhillips operates with China’s state-run oil giant CNOOC, has polluted a total area of almost 4,250 square kilometres (1,650 square miles), government figures showed.


1 October
BP Unit To Pay $15 million For Pollution Violations
(Reuters/Planet Ark) A unit of BP Plc has agreed to pay $15 million to settle Clean Air Act violations related to fires and a leak at its Texas City refinery in 2004 and 2005, the Obama administration said on Thursday. The penalty addresses violations from two fires at the Texas refinery in March 2004 and July 2005 as well as a leak in August 2005, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.
14 September
BP cited for safety lapses in North Sea
(FT) All but one of BP’s five North Sea installations inspected in 2009 were cited for failure to comply with emergency regulations on oil spills, raising questions about the company’s ability to manage a disaster in the area.
3 September
No sign of oil after Gulf platform fire: Coast Guard
(Daily Mail) – An oil and gas platform operated by Mariner Energy burst into flames in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, but the crew of 13 escaped and there were no signs of an oil spill, the Coast Guard said.
The accident brought unwelcome attention to the offshore drilling industry as it is trying to roll back a six-month deepwater drilling moratorium imposed in the wake of the BP Plc Macondo well disaster, which killed 11 workers and poured 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
Nigerians angered by UNEP Niger Delta findings
Nigerians and environmental groups are expressing outrage that a three-year United Nations Environment Programme investigation into oil spills and pollution along the Niger Delta over the past 40 years will find Royal Dutch Shell largely blameless. Niger Delta communities contend the company is responsible for massive damage caused by 300 spills and that the report, financed by Shell, is biased. The UNEP report will say 90% of the leakages were caused by locals attempting to sabotage the pipelines or steal supply. The Guardian (London) (8/22)
3 August
New study finds that Gulf oil spill is the largest in history
Nearly five million barrels of oil have gushed from BP’s well — and about 800,000 have been captured by containment efforts —since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, according to the latest data. That amount outstrips the estimated 3.3 million barrels spilled into the Bay of Campeche by the Mexican rig Ixtoc I in 1979, previously believed to be the world’s largest accidental release.
2 August
Move to halt BP drilling off Libya
(FT) Plans to start drilling for oil and gas in the region within weeks have prompted growing calls for a moratorium on deepwater operations while Mediterranean states assess the Gulf of Mexico environmental impact
1 August
3 years to cap an Arctic oil spill, officials say
Regulator Told MPs Relief well can’t be drilled in one ice-free season
Drilling a relief well in the ice-infested waters of the Beaufort Sea would take at least three years, leaving an oil spill off Canada’s Arctic coast to gush until the job is done, Canadian regulators warn in newly released documents.
Under the policy of the National Energy Board, which regulates drilling in the Canadian side of the Beaufort, oil companies must demonstrate the capacity to drill a relief well in the same season in which they dig their original well.
However, briefing notes prepared for NEB chairman Gaetan Caron suggest that companies looking to explore for oil in the Beaufort would be unable to meet that requirement.
31 July
White House warned Enbridge of safety issues
(Detroit Free Press) The Obama administration said today that it repeatedly warned Enbridge Energy Partners about safety issues along its Lakehead pipeline system, even calling company officials to Washington earlier this year for a meeting on what it deemed “a series of major failures.”
30 July
China struggles to recover from ‘worst ever’ oil spill
(BBC) China is struggling to clean up what has being described as the country’s worst oil spill, a fortnight after a fire at an oil depot caused crude to leak into the sea for several days.
Enbridge warned of corrosion in Michigan pipeline weeks before spill
(Montreal Gazette) The Calgary-based company, under fire for a 3.3 million litre crude oil spill into the lush Kalamazoo River, admitted Thursday the aging Line 6B had been subject to more than 100 repairs during the past year.
29 July
Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit
New report shows how today’s oil and gas industry threatens Americans in countless ways.
Major oil spills are really only a small part of the real story. From 2000 to 2010, the oil and gas industry accounted for hundreds of deaths, explosions, fires, seeps, and spills as well as habitat and wildlife destruction in the United States. These disasters demonstrate a pattern of feeding the addiction to oil leaving in their wake sacrifice zones that affect communities, local economies, and our landscapes. Download Report
Oil industry safety record blown open
National Wildlife Federation says catalogue of oil industry accidents proves BP disaster in Gulf of Mexico is not a one-off
The oil industry has been responsible for thousands of fires, explosions, and leaks over the last decade, killing dozens of people and destroying wildlife and the environment across America, according to a report published today.
None of the individual incidents catalogued by the National Wildlife Federation comes close in scale to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst environmental disaster in America’s history. But the thousands of lesser offshore spills, pipeline leaks, refinery fires and other accidents demolish the industry argument that BP’s ruptured well was a one-off, and that the oil and gas business has grown safer, the report’s authors said.
“These disasters make it clear that the BP disaster isn’t a rare accident,” said Tim Warman, who directs the global warming programme for NWF, which calls itself the country’s largest conservation organisation. “These are daily occurrences. These are daily incidents of not paying attention.”
In a further grim reminder, the American midwest was in the throes of its own environmental disaster today, with a ruptured pipeline gushing gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
Enbridge cleans up Michigan oil pipeline leak under shadow of BP disaster
(Winnipeg Free Press) Research by the Polaris Institute, an Ottawa-based activist group critical of corporations, found Enbridge has been responsible for 610 leaks between 1999 and 2008, which amounted to a total of 21 million litres spilled in that time frame.
“When we look at this spill in Michigan, it shouldn’t be that surprising that happened because of their track record, and the fact that they have 13,000 kilometres of oil pipeline streaking across Canada and the United States,” said Richard Girard, research and communications co-ordinator for the group.
26 July
US hit by new oil spill
(AFP) – A new oil spill is sullying US waters in the northern state of Michigan after a pipeline leak sent more than a million gallons of crude into a river tributary, officials said Wednesday. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the spill began Monday when a 30-inch (76-centimeter) pipe in Marshall, Michigan burst, spewing the crude into Talmadge Creek, a waterway which feeds into the Kalamazoo River.
Officials said the pipeline belongs to the Canadian company Enbridge Inc.
16 June
Ixtoc Disaster Holds Clues to Evolution of an Oil Spill
On a spring day in the Gulf of Mexico, a pipe issuing from the sea floor ruptured, sending an explosion rippling up to the drilling platform above and spewing oil into the surrounding waters. Experts scrambled to seal off the ever-increasing mass of oil by capping the pipe, clogging it or covering it. Nothing worked.
Work began on the drilling of a relief well. Oil continued to gush into the ecologically fragile and economically critical waters.
That was 31 years ago.
4 June
Lessons learned from the largest oil spill in history (Kuwait 1991)
(CNN) Between five and 10 million barrels of oil poured into the Persian Gulf in 1991 when Iraqi troops, retreating from their occupation of Kuwait, set fire to desert oil wells and opened the valves on oil rigs and pipelines.
The spill — at least five times the most recent estimate of that spilled in the Gulf of Mexico — devastated marine wildlife and coastal habitats in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Yet, against all the odds, the Persian Gulf appears to have shown amazing resilience in response to the ecological disaster
30 May
Nigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it
The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades
(The Guardian) … according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.
In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig last month.
9 May
Spain’s ‘Coast of Death’ bears evidence of oil spill 8 years later
(CNN) In November 2002, tanker ship Prestige sank, spilling millions of gallons of oil
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the pollution killed an estimated 250,000 sea birds. The oil spill also ground Galicia’s multimillion-dollar fishing industry to a halt.
Today, locals point to the rocky beach at Cuña. Despite nearly eight years of wind, surf and rain, thick black tar still clings to the rocks.
3 May
Facts and figures from PBS Newshour

30 April
The Biggest Oil Spills in History
(Foreign Policy) The growing slick of crude menacing the Louisiana coast is big trouble, but the world has seen much, much worse. [In retrospect, not a very prescient assessment]

3 Comments on "Oil spills and leaks"

  1. Yuri Q July 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm ·

    This is a truly awsome posting and I just like the manner you have treated several of the subject areas that interest me the greatest. I’ll surely be coming back to your blog for even more useful opinions. Have you pondered writing an article about the potential side effects for the global economic climate if President obama doesn’t get the money for the States.

  2. Diana Thebaud Nicholson March 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm ·

    Nick’s Gleanings #505
    It has happened! The first ever derailment of a train carrying crude oil to market since to get around pipeline capacity out of Alberta, or rather the lack thereof, became an issue. On March 28th, a CP Rail train carrying crude to Chicago derailed in Minnesota. While only 14 of the 94 cars actually left the rails & only one (with a 600+ bbl, 26,00 gallon capacity) actually “bled out”, the event got lots of media exposure with the Keystone pipeline proponents trying to use it to point out the risk of rail transport & touting the purportedly greater safety of pipelining, & environmentalists seeking to turn the event to their advantage by using it to bolster their case against oilsands oil of any description.

  3. Diana Thebaud Nicholson April 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm ·

    Nick’s Gleanings #506
    [The Exxon Pegasus pipeline] didn’t carry heavy crude but dilbit (diluted bitumen), the same product the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry. And pictures on the Internet of small rivers of black crud flowing through nice middle class suburban neighbourhoods will help the cause of its opponents. Once, this line carried foreign oil from the Gulf Coast to Middle America. But in 2006 Exxon reversed it to carry Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast refineries, & in 2009 doubled its capacity. The cause of the break is being investigated by the authorities. But they won’t have to look very far, or hard; for what they will immediately encounter is a poisonous combo of 50 year-old pipe, capacity expansion that involved boosting the pressure in the line, & a product, dilbit, with a viscosity requiring higher-than-average pipeline pressures, that is chemically-, & physically-, more corrosive than lighter products (the latter since it contains more sand particles). And while, in all fairness, none of this may apply to a brand new, purpose-built pipeline like the Keystone XL, this won’t matter a fig to opponents intent on using this incident to whip up popular sentiment against it. As usual, the oil industry is its own worst enemy; in this case because pipeline pipe typically has a rated 30-year useful life & continuing to use it past its “Best Before” date is a sub-optimal, increasingly-higher-risk-with-age management practice, especially so when combined with high pressure in the line. But, being fully depreciated, continuing to use 30+ year-old pipe is so delightfully profitable. The last week in March was a bad one for Alberta; for, apart from this, earlier a 94-car, dilbit-laden CP Rail train derailed near Parkers Prairie, Minn., spilling an estimated 750 bbls, thereby demonstrating that moving oil by rail, the recently much-touted alternative to pipelining, is not only more costly than pipelining, but also not risk-free (& given the safety record of North American railroads likely more prone to spills).

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