Breaking news: pipelines leak!

Bet you didn’t know that, didja? There has been a totally unexpected, surprising oil spill in North Dakota.

The Keystone pipeline has spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into North Dakota this week, The New York Times reports.

The pipeline has leaked roughly 383,000 gallons of crude oil, impacting an estimated half-acre of wetland, according to state environmental regulators.

This one is poisoning a “mere” uninhabited wetland. Then people wonder why others protest when Big Oil builds pipelines over their drinking water supplies…


  1. says

    So the oil pipeline people protested for years, because it might leak oil and contaminate the watershed, leaked oil and contaminated the watershed. Yeah, I’ll have that Green New Deal now.

  2. Jackson says

    There must be some kind of mix up in the reporting. The extent of the impact is contained to half an acre?

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    One half acre = 21,780 square feet,
    so that’s ~ 17.6 gallons per square foot.
    one gallon = 0.133681 cubic feet
    That makes for a depth of 2.35 feet over every square foot of that half acre.

  4. says

    @Reginald Selkirk
    So the trick there is you only test the soil in that half acre circle around the leak. If you don’t test the soil outside of the immediate area then the pollution doesn’t exist right? See No evil, hear no evil, etc. It would be funny if it wasn’t so common.

  5. says

    The alternatives to pipelines aren’t any better. Just ask the citizens of Lac Megantic. And even if we can convert in the short term to vehicles that don’t use gasoline the petrochemical industry will continue to exist, their products used for plastics, lubricants etc.

  6. stroppy says

    I haven’t seen a map of the spill or test sites. It’s likely that it covered more than the wetland– wetland being the most sensitive and salient area from the pov of sound-bite reportage.The main thing is that it is a leaky and poisonous menace, and that this fossil fuel crap needs to be abandoned.

  7. jack16 says

    Oil pipeline leaks are a result of poor maintenance. As with rail and other kinds of maintenance wealthy owners find it cheaper to pass the expense of repair on to the public.


  8. jack16 says

    Further, note; there is a machine called a “pig” that traverses inside pipes and detects leaks. Repair becomes an issue if a leak is detected.

    Regulation would help.


  9. monad says

    @1 Ray: This isn’t the Keystone XL, just the Keystone. So this isn’t even the extra spillage the protesters were trying to fight, this is just the background level they were already subject to.

    @5 timguegen: You should double-check your sources. The amount of oil needed for plastics, lubricants, etc. is so much less than for energy, it’s essentially a different question. I don’t think anybody would bother building pipelines if it was only for those things, any more than we have dedicated pipelines for coffee and tea.

    And it’s not obvious that the alternatives to pipelines aren’t any better. The Fraser Institute is very biased toward them, and yet in their 2013 review – focusing mainly on injury rates, which are low because the pipelines don’t have drivers and their toxic effects don’t count, so they only ones they could ever injure are inspectors – even they still found that they leak more percent volume than rail.

    Which, as jack16 suggests, could be made safer still if people demanded it. Whereas apparently this is as good as pipelines will ever get, because the Keystone was being held up as an example of perfect technological safety back when its extension was being forced onto regional protesters who somehow saw these spills coming anyway.

  10. robro says

    Reginald Selkirk @ #10

    monad #9: dedicated pipelines for coffee and tea

    Best idea of the day

    Gets my vote. Wine and beer, too.

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  12. says

    The pipeline has leaked roughly 383,000 gallons of crude oil…

    So, this company wasted hundreds of thousands of gallons of a valuable, effectively irreplaceable, national resource, damaging the local environment in the process.
    They’re going to pay for both the cleanup and the loss, right?

    Oh, wait. I’m in bizarro-world right now. I forgot. Never mind.

  13. says


    So, this company wasted hundreds of thousands of gallons of a valuable, effectively irreplaceable, national resource, damaging the local environment in the process.
    They’re going to pay for both the cleanup and the loss, right?

    Hello! The whole problem is that the oil is EXTERNAL to the pipe.

    Thus this is an EXTERNALITY for which society must pay Keystone, not the other way round.

  14. numerobis says

    Timguegen: maybe ask the survivors of Lac Mégantic if they support pipelines before using them to push pipelines?

  15. robro says

    johnson catman @#13 – Wow! Something in a pipeline that we might want to spill, if we can get it into a container.

  16. John Morales says

    a “mere” uninhabited wetland

    Heh. “Mere” is also a word meaning lake or pond.

  17. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    I work for a company that makes equipment used, among other things, to inspect pipelines – not the pig, which is used for screening over long distances, but the equipment you use to check whether repairs are needed (what is called defect sizing in the industry).

    There are thousands of kilometers of pipeline across North America. The new, modern pipelines are not the most worrisome ones – there are some pipeline section that are over 100 years old… and still in service. Some of them pass right through cities or near major roads.

    Explosions and leaks are commonplace, and only a tiny fraction are reported. Some asset owners are very conscientious in inspecting and maintaining their network, others much less so. So yeah, regulations should exist. There should also be studies on screening / sizing techniques as different techniques have different efficiency in detecting and sizing defects, and the current industry standard is archaic and far from the most performant technique.