Proposed rule would require 'berms' to conatin spills at oil well sites | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Proposed rule would require 'berms' to conatin spills at oil well sites

Feb 16, 2016

The state Department of Mineral Resources is proposing a new rule to keep more spills contained in an oil well pad.

“What we’ve noticed in the statistics on spills over the last couple of years is that the percentage that are contained to the well site has been dropping,” said state mineral resources director Lynn Helms.

Helms says about two out of three spills that should have been contained on site were not contained. He says the simplest solution is to build a “perimeter berm” around the outside of the well pad.

“What that is is a small one or two foot clay berm around the entire outside of the well pad or facility location," said Helms. "If a truck overflows, or there’s a vandalism incident, or a fire at a salt water disposal well, that the material used to put out the fire stays on the pad or on the location.”

Helms says that will add $10,000 to $15,000 to the cost of a well. He says this method has been used in Sasktchewan and Alberta.

North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness says the industry hasn’t seen the proposed new rule. But he says he’s concerned about adding more costs in a low price environment.

“Remember when we were talking about the crude oil monitoring thing a year and a half ago, when people were saying ‘It’s only a buck or two'", said Ness. "Let me tell you – a buck or two is a really big deal right now.”           

Ness says he expects the industry will have a lot to say on this new rule. It’s one of a package of rules being proposed by the Department. They will be the subject of public hearings in April, and could take effect as early as October first.