The Associated Press has a nice primer on the recently discovered rupture of the Belle Fourche pipeline in North Dakota. Among other details, the article compares the Belle Fourche to the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been the target of protest at Standing Rock and elsewhere.
The Belle Fourche is a 6-inch steel “gathering” pipeline built in the 1980s to transport oil to collection points, where it then “moves into larger pipelines or railroad tankers destined for refineries across the U.S.”
The Dakota Access is a 30-inch steel “transmission” pipeline that will carry 20 million gallons of oil daily some 1,200 miles to a shipping point in Illinois.
Debate over the Dakota Access project has centered on pipeline safety, especially risks to water supplies. Advocates argue that pipelines are safer than other transportation options, such as truck or rail.
A pipeline leak was recently discovered just a couple hours drive from a camp where protesters are challenging construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
For more details, see:
According to the report, more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek. The leak was discovered on December 5 by a landowner near the city of Belfield and was contained soon after by Wyoming-based True Cos., the company which operates the pipeline. True Cos. operates three pipeline companies with 1,648 miles of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Electronic monitoring equipment failed to detect the Belle Fourche Pipeline leak. The 6-inch steel pipeline was built in the 1980s and is mostly underground. The spill migrated almost 6 miles from the point where leak originated.
The report states that “True Cos. has a history of oil field–related spills in North Dakota and Montana, including a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill temporarily shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Montana, after oil was detected in the city’s water treatment system.”
True Cos. has reported 36 spills since 2006, totaling 320,000 gallons of petroleum products.
In what appears a significant turning point of the conflict, the Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill its pipeline under the Missouri River. This is a major victory for environmental and indigenous rights activists who have protested the Dakota Access pipeline, being built near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. As the New York Times notes, the pipeline has become “a global flash point for environmental and indigenous rights activism, drawing thousands of people … to a sprawling prairie camp of tents, tepees and yurts.”
The future of the Dakota Access pipeline is far from certain, as Donald Trump, who is has stock in Energy Transfer Partners and has signaled support for the pipeline, prepares to take office early next year.
The Dakota Access pipeline would transport up to 550,000 barrels of oil a day from western North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois.