The past week has not been a good one for the oil industry. There have been several high profile oil spills across the U.S. The 168,000 gallon spill in the Galveston Bay in Texas was the worst, as it fouled the local waterways, shut down the Port of Houston for ship traffic, and threatened local wildlife. The Houston Ship Channel remained closed through Tuesday, March 25. Early reports suggested that the closure was not immediately affecting production at the enormous oil refineries nearby, but as the closure extended into a fourth day, ExxonMobil announced that it had reduced production rates at its Baytown facility. "A prolonged outage will result in refineries reducing their operating rates and some supply disruption," said Andy Lipow, President of Houston-based Lipow Oil Associates. Fortunately for those companies, it appeared that the channel was close to reopening as of Tuesday.
Galveston Bay was not the only place with an oily mess on its hands. On March 18, a pipeline in southwest Ohio leaked 20,000 gallons of crude oil into a nature preserve, a volume that is twice as high as originally thought. The pipeline is part of a network that runs from Texas to Michigan. While the cause is still under investigation, Sunoco Logistics has since repaired the pipeline.
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On March 20, a pipeline in North Dakota broke and spilled 34,000 gallons of crude oil. North Dakota Water Quality Director Dennis Fewless said that the spill was being contained and no waterways were threatened. The rupture in the pipeline, which is owned by Hiland Crude LLC, occurred near Alexander, ND.
And on March 25, an unidentified quantity of oil leaked from BP’s massive Whiting refinery in Indiana. The oil was discharged into Lake Michigan. No injuries occurred and the leak was stopped. Favorable winds were keeping the oil at shore and cold weather eased containment. The refinery was recently upgraded to handle Canadian heavy crude.
By Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com