ALEXANDER, N.D. (AP) — Cleanup workers have contained about 34,000 gallons of crude that spewed from a broken oil pipeline in northwestern North Dakota, state health officials said Friday.
North Dakota Water Quality Director Dennis Fewless said the breach occurred Thursday morning on Hiland Crude LLC's pipeline about 6 miles northeast of Alexander. A gasket on the above-ground pipeline appears to have failed near a compressor station, spewing about 800 barrels of crude, Fewless said. A barrel holds 42 gallons.
Fewless said about half the oil migrated off the site but has been contained and no water sources are threatened. Hiland gave a lower estimate than state inspectors did for how much oil escaped the site, saying in a statement that "approximately 100 barrels of crude left the location, with an undetermined amount contained on location."
The Enid, Okla.-based company said the environmental impact "is limited to contaminated soil, which is being removed from the site."
On Friday afternoon, the smell of oil hung in the air as bulldozers loaded contaminated dirt into waiting trucks. The black-stained dirt was being taken to a nearby landfill, said Brady Espe, a health department inspector who was monitoring cleanup efforts at the site.
The broken pipeline sent a mist of oil over a Hiland oil and gas facility, and pooled along the sides of a nearby dirt road, Espe said.
Fewless said the cleanup likely will continue for a few days.
The spill occurred about 5 a.m. Thursday and Hiland notified North Dakota regulators about six hours later, Fewless said. State health inspectors have been on the scene since Thursday.
Hiland's statement said its workers "immediately began emergency response activities" after detecting the spill. It said specialized cleanup contractors were at the site before 6:30 a.m. Thursday, and the flow of crude oil was "substantially controlled" at that time.
"They called in all the necessary forces to get it cleaned up," Fewless said Friday. "They worked all night, got the leak stopped and got it contained. They are in cleanup mode right now."
The spill occurred near several farms and in an area dotted with oil wells. Espe said the response was focused on keeping oil out of groundwater.
Fewless said oil migrated into a dry drainage that has been "diked off, contained and boomed." But he said if a heavy spring rain hit during cleanup, oil could leach from the site.
"If we were to get a rainstorm, you would have potential for oil to make it to water," Fewless said.
Hiland Partners LP, which owns Hiland Crude, has reported two other incidents to North Dakota regulators in recent months.
In November, the company reported a 500-barrel crude oil spill near Trenton at a rail transfer facility. Last month, an above-ground natural gas pipeline owned by the company caught fire in rural Williams County, touching off explosions that could be felt miles away.
Hiland Crude began courting oil producers this week to reserve space on a new oil pipeline that would run from Dore and Sydney, Mont., to an oil storage facility in Guernsey, Wyo. The company said it expects to transport up to 100,000 barrels per day of crude on the pipeline later this year.
MacPherson reported from Bismarck, N.D.