Oil spill cleanup continues near Belfield | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Oil spill cleanup continues near Belfield

Dec 14, 2016

State mineral resources director Lynn Helsm at his monthly "Director's Cut" briefing 12-13-16.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Clean up work continues on an oil pipeline leak near Belfield.

More than 176,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline. The oil traveled nearly 5 miles off site. It has affected the Ash Coulee creek,  but has not gone into the Little Missouri River.

The Industrial Commission’s oil and gas division says that pipeline dates to the 1980s, but the section of the pipeline in question was replaced in 2012. State mineral resources director Lynn Helms saids the pipeline only had pressure gauges on it to detect leaks.

"We've been saying for years that those very basic things on these type of gathering lines don't detect small leaks," Helms said. "This really illustrates that."

Helms said just monitoring pressure on a pipeline that has large variations in rate, pressure and elevation, small leaks aren't detected by those systems. He says newly-adopted rules will require more sophisticated leak protection plans for those pipelines – even when a section of pipe is being replaced.

"The new spill rule also requires a company to investigate and report the root cause of the spill," Helms said.

The spill was reported by a farmer working in the area.

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