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US Wells Spilled More Oil in 2012 than Exxon Valdez Disaster

As the US oil and gas industry has gone through a boom over the past few years, the number of spills and accidents has increased into their thousands. The exact impact of the spills is unknown as data is spread out over various databases, websites, and filing cabinets of state agencies across the entire country.

EnergyWire has just spent four months sifting through all state and federal data in order to compile the most comprehensive report available on the spills and accidents that occurred in the US oil and gas industry in 2012.

It turns out that there were more than 6,000 reported incidents, an average of more than 16 spills a day, up 17% from 2010. The most common spills were the 100-gallon leaks (leaks of 100-gallons or less) that are contained within the site of the well and cleaned up the same day, but add all of them together and the total volume comes to 15.6 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, wastewater and other liquids spilled at sites in 2012. The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 only released 11 million gallons.

Related article: Rail v. Pipelines: No Safe Bet for Oil

EnergyWire even claims that the figure of 15.6 million gallons is an understatement as the reports made in oil states such as Colorado, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, rarely included a record of the amount spilled, and no figures were included for spills at interstate pipelines, or offshore platforms.

Related article: For Better or Worse, Big Oil has Big U.S. Future

Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist from Louisiana, has said that the volume of spills clearly indicates that the industry is not doing enough to prevent them. Communities based near to oil fields have commented that based on things they have seen they not only fear for the environment, but also their own health and safety.

Kristi Mogen from Douglas, Wyoming, said that after a blowout near her house last year that released vaporised drilling chemicals into the air, one of her daughters suffered nosebleeds for days.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), stated that the US oil and gas industry does take safety very seriously. “Over the years, based on the nature of producing energy, there are risks associated with it. But we do have a strong safety record.” In 2009 a report concluded that the number of spills in the US had fallen by more than 75% since the 1960s, but EnergyWire pointed out that this only looked at federal data, and was no way near as detailed as their own study.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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  • Norman on July 11 2013 said:
    Leaks: C.Y.A., goes with the territory, part of doing business, flood of paper work, bad mark[s] in the performance record, and the list goes on. Oh, then there is sloppiness too, but the mind set behind it all comes down to the bottom line, time is money, especially when production is halted to fix/repair, up to a certain point that the bean counters say is tolerable. Don't misunderstand, the Companies don't do so on a planned basis, it's the human element that's at play.

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