The lovely Amy Dalrymple, The Forum reporter in the oil patch and formerly a local education beat reporter (which is how I came to know her), recently penned an article about oil well blowouts. The article hit InForum late in the day on Labor Day – which I thought was entirely appropriate given that it is the holiday that honors the effort of the workers. I surmise it was in the printed paper on Tuesday. Yet, I fear that due to all the holiday celebrating going on on Monday and the necessary long holiday weekend recovery going on Tuesday morning that this article may have been missed by many folks.
I was alarmed by the article. Amy reported that there have been 23 blowouts in the Bakken over the past year. 23! Of those 23, five were major blowouts that spewed “600 barrels to more than 2,000 barrels of oil and saltwater.” Regulators are concerned and are getting involved – which should alarm us all as it often appears that big oil tends to get away with an awful lot without a whole lot of government comment. I attribute this in my mind to the struggle between the economic benefit and the environmental, social, and cultural detriment.
But the most troubling part of the entire article for me came at the end:
“Industry representatives have formed a committee to develop best practices. The committee will report back to Helms’ department, and the input may lead to rule changes. In some cases, more training or education may be required.”
A committee to DEVELOP best practices? More training or education may be required? Hello!!! Is this the oil industry’s first rodeo? Why didn’t they develop these practices at the outset, not just upon pressure from regulators? Where is the accountability in this industry? Where is the continuing focus on safety standards and regulations that we expect from major industries whose potential negligence can negatively affect people, communities, and the environment?
This makes me want to jump up and down and wave my arms around! Oh wait, I just did that – figuratively. Read Amy’s little article and let me know if you are concerned as well. Should we be paying a whole lot more attention to what is going on in the oil patch? I think we should. Good job Amy on keeping us apprised on the goings-on in the oil patch – keep it up!
By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service
WILLISTON, N.D. – Oil well blowouts are increasing in the Bakken, prompting regulators to take action.
North Dakota has had 23 blowouts in the past year, according to the Department of Mineral Resources.
“That’s up significantly,” said Lynn Helms, director of the department.
A blowout may be an uncontrolled flow of oil, gas, saltwater or a mixture of these.
“The fluids flowing out of the well can escape and they’re often flammable,” Helms said.
Eighteen of the 23 recent incidents resulted in fewer than 10 barrels of fluid released, and the spills were contained on location.
But five incidents were blowouts involving significant volumes and pressures, each spewing 600 barrels to more than 2,000 barrels of oil and saltwater.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission is pursuing action in two of those major blowouts and continues to investigate the three others, Helms said.
The commission is seeking $379,025 in penalties from Slawson Exploration, the company that operated a well near the Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea that had oil, gas and saltwater flowing from it for three days last December before operators regained control.
A spill report from the commission says the blowout resulted in the release of 800 barrels of oil and 400 barrels of saltwater.
A blowout that same month in McKenzie County prompted the state Industrial Commission to seek $105,380 fines from Newfield Production Co.
Investigation continues into a an Aug. 14, 2012, blowout in Williams County, Helms said.
That incident also resulted in a worker’s death after he was struck by a pickup driven by another worker who was driving away from the blowout.
After the two significant blowouts last December, regulators approached the North Dakota Petroleum Council with concerns that some changes may need to be made to the state’s rules on well control, Helms said.
Industry representatives have formed a committee to develop best practices. The committee will report back to Helms’ department, and the input may lead to rule changes. In some cases, more training or education may be required.
Day one thousand five hundred and nineteen of the new forty – obla di obla da