Oil spills continued to be a problem in 2015 with a number of major incidents in North America. These spills contaminated both land and waterways and prompted the evacuation of local citizens. Whether by pipe, ship, rail or truck, there are well founded concerns about the safety of transporting fossil fuels. These concerns add weight to the argument that we need to expedite the shift away from fossil fuels. Many consecutive years with substantial numbers of spills illustrate the dangers associated with transporting fossil fuels.
Last year in North America alone there were 34 significant spills starting in January and continuing right through to December. A New York Times report found that in North Dakota alone there were more than 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked, or misted into the state’s air, land, and waterways between 2006 and 2014. The amount of fossil fuels spilled in the Canadian oil producing province of Alberta is even worse.
Here is a review of 33 fossil fuel leaks that occurred in North America in 2015.
January 6 – Williston, North Dakota: A ruptured pipeline operated by Summit Midstream leaked three million gallons of brine into Blacktail Creek and Little Muddy River, tributaries of the Missouri River.
January 14 – Jackson, Mississippi: A section of the Gulf South natural gas pipeline ruptured and exploded. .
January 17 – Glendive, Montana: The Poplar Pipeline running beneath the Yellowstone River ruptured, spilling some 31,000 gallons of crude oil into the water contaminating water supplies for nearby residents.
January 23 – Tioga, North Dakota: Hess Bakken Investments reported a brine spill of more than 100,000 gallons.
January 26 – Brooke County, West Virginia: The 1,265-mile Appalachia-to-Texas Express ethane pipeline ruptured and exploded.
February 4 – Dubuque, Iowa: An 81-car Canadian Pacific freight train derailed and caught fire in a remote area north of Dubuque on the banks of the Mississippi River.
February 14 – Gogama, Ontario: A 100-car Canadian National Railway train carrying crude from Alberta’s tar-sands region to eastern Canada derailed and caught fire in a remote wooded area.
February 16 – Boomer, West Virginia: A 109-car CSX train carrying millions of pounds of crude oil derailed and exploded shutting down a local water treatment plant. Three oil train wrecks in February beg the question, how many such disasters will it take before we realize that rail transport of fossil fuels is not safe.
March 1 – Peace River, Alberta: A Murphy Oil Company pipeline leaked up to 17,000 barrels of petroleum product into a type of North American bog habitat called muskeg.
March 5 – Galena, Illinois: A 105-car BNSF Railway train carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota derailed and caught fire near the Mississippi River. Twenty-one cars came off the tracks, and five caught fire.
March 7 – Gogama, Ontario: A 94-car Canadian National Railway train carrying Alberta crude oil derailed and burst into flames two miles northwest of the town of Gogama contaminating part of the Makami River, in the Mattagami River System.
March 9 – Houston, Texas: An unknown quantity of toxic chemicals spilled into the Houston Ship Channel after a bulk carrier collided with a Danish tanker carrying 216,000 barrels of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE.
March 9 – Williston, North Dakota: A truck overflow spilled 1,680 gallons of brine, affecting a nearby creek.
April 11 – Arlington, Texas: Vantage Energy spilled thousands of gallons of fracking fluid that poured out of storm drains and into the streets.
April 13, 2015 – English Bay, Vancouver, B.C.: A ship MV Marathassa leaked 2.3 tonnes or 3,100 liters of fuel.
April 17 – Fresno, California: A Pacific Gas & Electric natural gas pipeline exploded at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office gun range, sending a fireball 100 feet into the air and injuring 14 people, two critically.
May 5 – Drumheller, Alberta: TransCanada’s Sieu Creek natural gas transmission line spilled an undetermined volume of sweet natural gas and hydrocarbon liquid onto agricultural land during planned maintenance.
May 6 – Heimdal, North Dakota: At least six tanker cars caught fire after a BNSF oil train derailed.
May 19 – Goleta, California: An underground pipeline owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline ruptured, leaking up to as much as 330 tonnes. Other estimates suggest that a total of 101,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled with an estimated 21,000 gallons leaking into the Pacific Ocean. Nine miles worth of oil slicks eventually washed up on the shores including Refugio and El Capitan state beaches. This spill is in many respects a repeat of a 1969 spill.
June 3 – Little Rock, Arkansas: A Spectra Energy Corp. natural gas pipeline running beneath the Arkansas River ruptured and exploded, releasing four million cubic feet of gas.
June 9 – Unityville, Pennsylvania: A Williams Gas natural gas pipeline ruptured and leaked, resulting in an explosion and fire.
July 10 – Highland, Illinois: A spill at the Plains All American Pipeline Pocahontas pump station sent 4,200 gallons of crude oil into Silver Creek, which empties into Silver Lake, the water reservoir for the city of Highland.
July 10 – Barwick, Ontario: Fourteen cars of a CN train derailed leaking an estimated 12,000 gallons of petroleum distillates.
July 14 – Culbertson, Montana: A total of 22 BNSF cars came off the tracks spilling 35,000 gallons of crude oil.
July 17 – Fort McMurray, Alberta: A high-pressure pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oil sands facility spilled five million liters of emulsion (a mixture of bitumen, sand, and water) damaging 16,000 square meters of musket habitat.
August 14 – Chateh, Alberta: A NuVista Energy pipeline leaked an estimated 100,000 liters of bitumen emulsion onto the Hay Lake Indian Reserve.
September 19 – Scotland, South Dakota: A 98-car BNSF tanker train carrying ethanol derailed in a rural area, leaking the volatile liquid into pastureland, where it caught fire.
October 23 – Porter Ranch, California: A natural gas well at a Southern California Gas storage facility continues to leak methane at a rate of more than 66,500 pounds per hour or the equivalent of seven million cars per day.
October 27 – Brownsville, Pennsylvania:A coal train derailed and spilled its load along the Monongahela River near the Alicia Transshipment Facility.
November 7 – Alma, Wisconsin: Twenty-five cars of a BNSF train went off the tracks near the Mississippi River, and leaked 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the water.
November 8 – Watertown, Wisconsin: A 100-car Canadian Pacific train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in southeastern Wisconsin leaking about 1,000 gallons of product.
November 9 – Des Moines County, Iowa: Two engines and 19 loaded coal cars derailed and overturned when a freight train struck a road grader on the tracks.
December 1 – Watford City, North Dakota: A pump leak at a disposal well owned by Wyoming-based True Oil LLC spilled 17,640 gallons of brine.
Here is a review of the five biggest oil spills of all time:
Video – Train Carrying Oil Derails Illustrating the Dangers of Transporting Fossil Fuels
Video – Truck Carrying Oil Crashes and Explodes Illustrating the Dangers of Transporting Fossil Fuels
Three of the Most Destructive Tanker Oil Spills in History
Unstoppable Oil Leak at a Tar Sands Production Site in Alberta
Top 25 Oil Spills Over 1000 Tonnes in the Last Decade
Pipelines and Oil Spills in Alberta Canada
Shell Oil Rig Runs Aground in Alaska Raising Safety Concerns
The Costs of Oil: BP Liable for up to 90 Billion
Two More Reasons to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels
The Costs of Offshore Drilling