Saturday morning, an oil pipeline burst outside of Glendive, Montana, resulting in an oil spill, some 300 to 1,200 barrels of oil, some of which made it into the Yellowstone River. Unfortunately, oil.
Regarding this particular oil spill, Bridger Pipeline Company is still investigating the cause of the pipeline break. It was estimated that the pipeline break occurred around 10 AM, Saturday, January 17, and that it took a little less than an hour to shut the pipeline down. Even so, the estimated 12,600 gal to 50,400 gal escaped from the 12 in diameter line, an unknown quantity of which made it into the Yellowstone River. Interestingly, oil spills like this aren’t all that uncommon.
The Glendive oil spill is just 200 mi upriver of the Exxon 63,000 gal oil spill from 2011. Look for “oil spill” in our archives and you’ll find even more. According to one study, there were some 1,400 oil spills across 185,000 mi of oil pipelines, in just three years! In other words, between 2010 and 2013, this averages out to one oil spill every eighteen hours! As if this wasn’t bad enough, it’s not even the pipeline companies that discover the spills. Even with sophisticated monitoring equipment, 80% of the oil spills are reported by totally non-sophisticated monitoring equipment, that is, local residents have to call it in.
Shipping oil by rail hasn’t been any better. Really, if there is anything worse than a stationary oil pipeline, it would have to be a mobile pipeline, and this has proven that there really is no safe way to transport oil. The safest thing, for everyone involved, would have to be to leave it in the ground where it has lain safely for millennia.