Over 865,200 Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Over 20,600 barrels of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale has spilled from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history.

Though the spill occurred on September 29, the U.S. National Response Center - tasked with responding to chemical and oil spills - did not make the report available until October 8 due to the ongoing government shutdown. 

“The center generally makes such reports available on its website within 24 hours of their filing, but services were interrupted last week because of the U.S. government shutdown,” explained Reuters

The “Incident Summaries” portion of the National Response Center's website is currently down, and the homepage notes, “Due to [the] government shutdown, some services may not be available.” 

At more than 20,600 barrels - equivalent to 865,200 gallons - the spill was bigger than the April 2013 ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline spill, which spewed 5,000-7,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen into a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas.

So far, only 1,285 barrels have been recovered in North Dakota, and the oil is spread out over a 7.3 acre land mass.

Kris Roberts, environmental geologist for the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Water Quality told the Williston Herald, “the leak was caused by a hole that deteriorated in the side of the pipe.”

No water, surface water or ground water was impacted,” he said. “They installed monitoring wells to ensure there is no impact now or that there is going to be one.”

Roberts also told the Herald he was impressed with Tesoro's handling of the cleanup.

They've responded aggressively and quickly,” Roberts commented, also noting that the cleanup will cost upward of $4 million. “Sometimes we've had to ask companies to do what they did right off the mark. They're going at this aggressively and they know they have a problem and they know what they need to do about it.”

Tesoro Logistics Chairman and CEO Greg Goff also weighed in on the spill.   

“Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner,” said Goff in a press release. “We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area.”

Pipeline to Albany Refinery, Barging on the Hudson

Tesoro's six-inch pipeline was carrying oil obtained via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process to the Stampede, ND rail facility. From Stampede, Canadian Pacific's freight trains take the oil piped from Tesoro's pipeline and ship it to an Albany, NY holding facility by Global Partners located along the Hudson River.

Albany, NY Global Partners Facility; Image Credit: Google Maps 

“Over five years, the equivalent of roughly 91 million barrels of oil will be transported via CP’s rail network from a loading facility in Stampede, N.D., to a Global terminal in Albany,” explained a September story appearing in the Financial Post

Albany's holding facility received its first Canadian Pacific shipment from the Bakken Shale in December 2011, according to Bloomberg, with 1.4 million barrels of storage capacity. The facility receives 149,000-157,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day from Canadian Pacific.

Once shipped to Global's Albany holding facility, much of the oil is barged to market on tankers along the Hudson from the Port of Albany.

“As much as a quarter of the shale oil being produced in North Dakota could soon be headed by rail to the Port of Albany,” explained an April 2012 article appearing in the Albany Times-Union. “The crude oil…will be loaded onto barges to be shipped down the Hudson River to refineries along the East Coast.”

North Dakota Petroleum Council Responds

North Dakota Petroleum Council's response to the largest fracked oil spill in U.S. history and one of the biggest onshore spills in U.S. history? Ho-hum.  

“You know, this is an industrial business and sometimes things happen and the companies are certainly responsible to take care of these things when they happen,” Petroleum Council President Ron Ness told KQCD

John Berger, Manager of Tesoro's Mandan, ND, refinery, sits on the Petroleum Council's Board of Directors

DeSmogBlog will post continuing updates on the spill: stay tuned. 

Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons


The article I sent you in the initial comment included photos and stories of previous articles. Here one of the said articles. 


Below the photo in the tag are the following words:

“Crews work to clean up a release of 20,600 barrels of crude oil Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline near Tioga, N.D. Private security prevented media from getting any closer to the scene. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service
Read the article: Pipeline leak spills 20,600 barrels of oil near Tioga, N.D.


There is is not purpose for this article to even contian the word fraking, but good job for getting it in there anyway.

A continuous layer of clay about 10 to 14 feet below the surface kept the oil isolated and protected drinking water sources, Haugstad said.

It’s unfortunate it happened but the location because of the clay underlayer and the topography actually mitigated the spread of the oil,” said Haugstad, who assisted with cleanup of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

The part above is important.  The amount of oil spilled is significant.  It is about 26 rail cars worth, but it probably isn't going to go anywere anytime soon.

Flow rates through clay can be measued in mm or inches/ year.  I'm sure they will recover as much oil as possible and then clean and haul all the dirt to a special land fill.

Every rig in ND produces nearly 20 truck loads of cuttings that are fairly nasty.  The area is realtivly good at dealing with contaminated sites. 

The state regulatory agancey for North Dakota is very good. They will have a grid of wells around this thing for quite awhile.

If this spill had happened somewhere else it may have been a seirous problem, but luckly most of northwestern north dakota is covered by glacial till which is extreamly clay rich so spills tend to say put.

I'm sure the farmer is mad, but he will probably get paid enough money not to care. 7 acres is nothing in North Dakota the average farm size is probably 3000+ acres. They should have noticed a leak that big sooner.  This will likey cause a few new state regulations.

North Dakotas approach to solvings problems is usually to wait until their is a problem to fix.  Other states take a more proactive route to making regulations ahead of time which really doesn't appear to help midigate problems. 

I'm not condoning the spill, but because of the circumstances it really won't be a big deal.  It will probably directly affect a handul of people which is a few people too many, but things could be a lot worse.  You have to remember that pipelines are very efficent and keep a lot of traffic off the road.

Regarless not a horrible aticle other than trying to link it to fracking.  I will likely follow the story.

I'm guessing Tesoro will be able to write off the cost of cleanup just like BP and others? North Dakota benefits greatly from federal government spending through water programs, natural resources (i.e… oil) exploration, department of defense facilities, Homeland security, agriculture, and subsidized bootstrap manufacturing for residents to pull themselves up with. 

Why would anyone with an IQ above special needs believe an anonymous blog commenter on pipeline spill emergency response, subsurface investigation and remediation?

Michael the purpose in posting crappy rambling responses is to make it look like there is in fact some sort of controversy about the articles in question. i.e. the problem is with Steve, and what he's writing about.

Anyways, Mr Moto, if you care to check, you'll find that people who are directly impacted by spills are greatly impacted or even bankrupted.  You can look up the damage from all the recent major oil spills and find that.  Its not in the oil company's interests to pay that farmer.  That would cost money.

Perhaps you should talk to the kind people in Arkansas who were told to go back to their bitumen smelling homes.  They can stay there and get sick, or sue and go bankrupt.  Too bad they don't get any other choice in that matter.  Exxon also leaned on the neighborhood doctors, so they have a hard time getting treatment for the neurological damage they are suffering from. Oh… Its impossible to get samples from the site for their law suit.  It seems they gathered all the evidence, and that makes it hard to sue.

How serious this is, I don't know.  'Special Landfills' are rare, and this type of soil will get dumped somewhere… cheap.  Hiring trucks to haul it a long ways just doesn't happen for farmers.  At least that's the normal practice in industry as far as I can tell.

Sorry about the rambling. It was very late last night when I wrote that. (Was running some random tests at work) Here it is late again…

Farmers in western ND are reciving massive roalty checks.  Most of them do not need to work any more, but they do not know any other way of life so they keep working.

My point may have been lost in the ramble, but the point was that this particular spill is not likely to directly affect anyone. (very lucky) It was about a quarter mile from the nearest farm. Population density in the region is extreamly low.

My post had nothing to do with Arkansa or any other spill. If this spill had happened in a populated location or an area with different geology there could have been a real problem.

I'm well aware of where the special land fills are located.  Most of the waste from ND acrually gets hauled to Montana. This stuff is not going to get dumped “cheap” as ND will not allow this kind of soil to be dumped in the state. (There are no rated landfills) There are methods of cleaning it up but I won't go into the details.  Nearly all oil wells drilled in ND are shipping truckloads of nasty material to MT

“Hiring trucks to haul it a long ways just doesn't happen for farmers.” huh?

The state has people monitoring this site with geoprobes in a pattern around the spill clearly the company will be held responsible for removing contaminated soil.  The farmer will have nothing to do with it.  Unfortunaly, the a the land will be effectivly useless for awhile hopefully he is paid accordingly.  I would be willing to bet that farmer has thousands of acers so it probably isn't going to crush him.

I mostly agree with your statments in general, but NDs regulatory agency will be ontop of this and genneraly does a fairly good job. The geology and low poulation density made this a lucky spill.  No spill is good but things could be much worse.

The article here is trying to make it into something bigger than it is given the circumstances.

Short of a citations and facts, I'm going to banket call you a greenwashing lier. Its that simple. So do you have any citations to back any of that up at all?  Any?

There is no massive royalty check.  Got anything to back that up?  Pipelines are typically one time small checks (if you're lucky).

I like how you categorized this waste some how. Short of reading very exact details I doubt you know what will happen.  (Arkansas wasn't moving oil when it spilled, a convenient loop hole for Exxon.)  You also might want to take a look at what the laws are regarding dumping toxic waste on farmer's fields.  There is a reason we have regulations for heavy metals in organic food.  Look it up.  Its amazing what you can do with a rototiller.

Saying no one is affected is really silly, don't you think?  I bet those farmers are really unhappy right now.  Wanna call and ask how happy they are?  How happy would you be if I dumped shale oil all over your yard?  Would you be unaffected?  I bet this is a multiyear hit to those farmers even 'if' they are compensated.

Anyways… I'll wait and see what the farmers actually say.  You are just here to green wash the entire mess.

What we usually get around here are blindly ignorant apologists stating everything is just fine.  So… you can see why your response doesn't go over well with me.  This does not mean you're wrong, but dude, I've heard it all before. Repeatedly. I've gotten down right tired of attempting to locate so called reliable sources for the so called safe practices of the oil industry.

So… here's sludge that can go on a farmer's fields;


Here's a bit of a talk about regulations in Nebraska;


I have no idea how put out those farmers are.  I suspect you are right the impact of this on them, but I don't know and I wouldn't hazard a guess.  Typically what we see with desmogblog stories is several more stories about the naughty behavior of the companies followed by another story about 6 months later about the law suit because, well the land owners got hosed by the pipeline.

I would like to take this time to point out that I don't hear any stories about trains full solar cells falling off the tracks exploding and killing everyone. They also don't pollute that land they are placed upon.

Here's one farmer in the area;

Jensen said he had harvested most of his wheat prior to the spill. But his land is no longer good for planting.

“We expect not to be able to farm that ground for several years,” he said.


So I'd say I'm not far off the mark.

My point had nothing to do with what the pipeline was paying.

Tioga is in Williams County where the average farm size is 1336 Acers.  Please keep in mind that number is likely small due to families splitting up land between multiple family members. (Helps with taxes)

Farm Size Source http://banknd.nd.gov/lending_services/pdfs/median-size-farms.pdf

The average oil production for Williams county is sitting around 3.75 million barrels a month right now.   So we are going to cheat and say that the oil is evenly disturbed around the county.  (Not exactly true.) 3.75 million barrels of oil * well say $90 (due to shipping issues ND gets screwed on oil prices a little.)


$337.5 Million/month

Royalty rate is between 12.5 and 15 %

$337.5 Million a month * .125 = 4.22M/month to Williams county residents.

The size of Williams county is 2148mi² = 1374720ac

1374720ac / 1336 Acers/farm(person) =  1028 people. Yep that numer looks about right

4.22M / 1028 people/ month = 

$4085 / month per land owner for nothing more than owning the mineral rights to the land. Note this doesn't include surface rights that are much less but still significant.

So we will say average Joe farmer in Williams county ND is making $49,000+ a year of royalty checks alone and he probably still farms just like he always has.  

Maybe we should check where the spill is and see if there are any oil wells there…

Spill Location:

Well Map

Yep looks like there are some wells there.

Landfill information:

Minimum rating for oil field waste is industrial waste. 

North Dakota only has 4 industrial waste landfills while Montana has 21

I know nothing of Arkansan and frankly I don’t care. Remediation laws are typically enforced by the state. North Dakota does not have great remediation laws, but they do get enforced. This particular case is very high profile you can bet that the state is going to make sure it is taken care of properly.

www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/generation/sqg/list/lfillpdf.pdf (I Have a copy of this if you just can't wait until the end of the shutdown to see it)

What our farmer Steve Jensen thinks of the spill and the cleanup crew as of today.

It’s been quite overwhelming,” said Jensen, who estimates he’s lost two days of work to media interviews. “It’s quite an experience. It’s big news.”

Jensen called Haugstad and others at the site doing the cleanup “class acts” and said they’ve considered his suggestions about how to best monitor for seepage.

It’s a team effort,” Jensen said.


So he is pissed he lost two days of farming to interviews, but doesn't seem overly mad about the spill. Weird…. I web stocked him a little.  Things will be fine for him.

Photo of the site from the air.  Note farm in frame in abandon.


Saying no one is affected is really silly, don't you think?   I'm sure a handful of feild mice will be really pissed off.  beyond that… probably not.

I'm sure the oil company is pissed that they lost all that oil and it is going to cost them millions of dollars to clean up the spill. However The realitly is that most of the wells in ND now cost upwards of 16 million a pop. Drill pads are 3-5 acers and they all have to go through a remediation process.

Anyway…  I think the point of my post was missed.  I'm not really a pro industry guy, but common sense goes along way.  The location of this event is the only reason this wasn't a really big deal.  The sad thing is that the media picked it up thinking it was huge when infact it really won't matter much.

4.22M / 1028 people/ month


$337.5 Million a month * .125 = 42.19 Million a month

42.2 Million/1028 people/ month = ~ $40K a month

Close to a cool half million a year for most families.

Understand why they don't care if they lose 7 acers?yes

This probably wouldn't be news outside the Great Plains if things were fine with the feds - and there weren't all the other spill stories this year. Neat info, thanks.

You have produced data entirely unrelated to the question at hand.  How will these people be affected?  Telling me that the farmer may or may have a big farm which may or may not have an oil well on it is hardly conclusive sleuthing.  Wouldn't you agree?

Now, we are talking about the pipeline right?  Not oil wells.  Right?  The two are not related at all.   For instance I have no oil under my property, but I may have a pipeline through it.  That is simple enough to understand right?  This pipeline was not a feeder pipe from an oil well from what I can tell.

Those numbers have to do with that farmer and his land.  Is for instance, is Mr Jansen, getting $40k a month for an oil well?  And how did you conclude that he does not make a living from his grain?  [Also…  That money may or may not be getting paid to the farmers.  If they objected, then it gets withheld until the well gets shut in… basically forever.]

Pipelines are typically put in for a low one time fee and a permanent right of way.  They do not generate income for the land owner.  So the neighbors' oil may be on that farm.

However phenomenal the clean up crew appears to be, the long term effects have yet to be seen.  They were very happy in Arkansas when Exxon showed up and took care of things.  They were less happy when Exxon left them to their bitumen stinking homes.    I bet down wind of that place will be pretty ripe in the new year. (Maybe not… but I'm getting jaded by all these stories of awesome cleanups.)

Interesting site to use for your sources.  Its some sort of fossil fuel apologist.  Anyways, an uneducated person seems to run it.  Whoever it is has not read any journals on climate science yet. Maybe some day he will read about it before he talks about it.  (I live in hope.)

That site sure seems to like fracking.  I wonder if that guy is smart enough discuss how wells leak.  The Alberta government has produced some public data on leaks between oil formations and ground water.  That data correlates nicely with the leaked EPA report on well water pollution.


And *sigh* it correlates with my personal experience with drilling.

I wasn't trying to answer your questions.  I was just trying to put a little perspective on the spill.

How will these people be affected?

-I don't know it isn't good, but you would first have to define “these people” as the farmer who is directly affected doesn't really seem to care.

I grew up on a farm something like this would likely be seen as a minor inconvince.  When it rains in the region farmers temporarly lose large chunks of land as well. (It can take years to get it back)

Wouldn't you agree?

- In this particular case I don't agree. 

Is for instance, is Mr Jansen, getting $40k a month for an oil well?

No he is likely reciving partial share for many wells due to lateral legs that go under his property.  The only way this is not the case is if he is not the mineral rights holder which is possible.

how did you conclude that he does not make a living from his grain?

-I made no such cunclusion.  Infact I stated the opposit in a different response.

[Also…  That money may or may not be getting paid to the farmers.  If they objected, then it gets withheld until the well gets shut in… basically forever.]

You were the on screaming about sources earlier if you are going to say something like that you will have to source it.

I agree that the rule above may be applicable somewhere, but it is not the case in North Dakota.

Your Pipeline Statment


Cleanup assumptions

You may be correct, but it will be unlikely to be overly bothersom.  There are a lot of fish to fry in North Dakota. For that site I would sort of bet they will fire most of the dirt from that location to get the total organics down under 1%. It will probably be more effective than trucking it all out.

North Dakota is not Arkansa. You can talk about Arkansa all you want, but I will not address anything about it.

Interesting site to use for your sources.  Its some sort of fossil fuel apologist.  Anyways, an uneducated person seems to run it.  Whoever it is has not read any journals on climate science yet.

That site sure seems to like fracking.

I used goverment site for my sources?  I did use my old blog as an image host for the map photo.  The map you are looking for is at the following link.


As far as being uneducated I suppose that is your opinion, but I really don't think you made it past the first page if that is what you belive.  I don't agree with most enviornmental groups but that is because they tend to approach problems only knowing half of the story and they rarely offer economic solutions to the things they are protesting.

My old blog basicly has nothing to do with climate science, but it does cover a few drilling topics. If you go back even farther on the main site I have posts about running electic bikes on capacitors and compare the amount of energy you expect to get out of a 4 million dollar oil wel as well as 4 million worth of solar cells in the desert south west. 

I do not get into the climate debate much because there are so many people who do not understand what climate change really means.  I would argure that regarless of the energy source we will still cause climate change because of the scale of energy that we require.  Even solar cells used on a massive scale for energy farming would cause large heat island effects. (not saying that differnt energy sources are on the same scale)

As far as liking fracking it is basicly the only way that the world will meet its near term energy demands.  I do belive that it can be done safely (acceptiable amount of risk) if properly regulated.  Regulations fall to the states.  If you are unhappy with the regulations you will need to talk to your state goverment about spending the money to have a propper regulatory body. (North Dakota actually has one of the best in the country as much as some of the recent news articles like to bash the state)

Fracking safty really boils down to a few things.

-Local geology


-the oil companies that are playing in your back yard.

If possible it is best to keep the majors out…

Maybe some day he will read about it before he talks about it.  (I live in hope.)

Upon review of many of the things you claim on this site I wish the same for you.

I wonder if that guy is smart enough discuss how wells leak.

Yep, I'm smart enough. However, due to my current occupation I likely will not post much on that topic.  Some wells leak.  It is a known fact.  Especially worrisome is all of the pluged and abondon (P&A) wells.  Unfotuantly people still drive cars and need plastics.

There will be future enviornmental issues because of of the drilling that is being done today and past drilling.  However, you should look at history and realize things are actually improving rather rapidly and technologies used for drilling today may actually be useful for remediation in the future. Technology being devoloped for oil feild sludge today will be usefule for remediation of other contaminated site in the future.  The world is full of building blocks and some of the blocks at the bottom are really ugly.

Industry is and always has been ugly, but without it we will fall even faster than we are now.

If our goverment would develop an energy plan we would all be better for it.  Even if it is a bad plan it would probably be better than nothing.

….This is my last response to you on this site.  I have read through many of your posts and for all the name calling and ranting you do I think maybe you should think about reading more and talking less.  It seems that your understanding of a lot of the topics you get upset about are superficial.  

The only reason I posted on this particular topic is that it is close to home, and I have an understnding of how people think in the region.

If my blog really bothered you feel free to go post on my two year old energy posts.  I will be happy to have an open discusion with you there.

Have Good Day

You're obviously here in earnest.

This is a political blog, not a science blog.  I'm here because of political manipulation of scientific or technical data, and for no other reason.  It is that overt manipulation that upsets me.  Desmogblog does attract what appear to be lobbyists or paid trolls.

Maybe it would help if you knew why articles like this are posted here.  I think desmogblog is concerned over political\environmental pollution being brought about by oil and gas.  Some of these articles turn into ongoing concerns, and many don't.  This is yet another large spill in the last few years and how it is handled could affect international politics.  So many recent spills are affecting the popularity of the Keystone XL.

We get a lot of fakers and liers here.  They show up just like you did… kinda green wash it… kinda dismiss it… never reference sources.  Its like clock work over and over.

I don't have any issues with people who have their own opinions.  That means your opinions don't bother me.  I wish more people would share in the context of opinion.

In the past I argued with another oil and gas guy for a good 3 months before he finally admitted that he knew that wells leaked. Up to then, he accused me of all kinds. He disappeared shortly afterwards. Most people in the industry have not been forth coming and honest like you.  IMO… land owners should be handed the odds of a leak and have veto over wells.  (Alas, that's just my opinion.)  Some farmers have been badly handled over their water.

You might be right about me… however, I sincerely hope you continue to return here.

No complaints about your first statment.

Second Statment:

Agreed I'm not going to tell you who I am.

If you really care about this specific spill you should try to keep searching for information on this spill.  The grand forks hearald has some new pictures but they aren't very good quality.  I'm sure the state will have a full report sometime next year.  This thing will be monitord.  The NDGS is very good about getting their reports up online.

North Dakota will probably get more populated given this boom. I'll argue that it will become more essential for agriculture as climate changes. [even burly Alaskans are thinking there might be something going on] Land usually only increases in value. ND land value may soon have to weigh the benefits of supporting higher value crops or the random suburban sprawl. 

Spills happen. It's how we prepare for them and address them that matters. Dice rolling risk/reward analysis and reducing capital and preventative maintenance costs isn't very comforting. My home state of Illinois includes city/suburban folk, industry and agriculture. There' s probably more railroad on the surface and pipelines running underground than any other state. Just a month ago a pipeline exploded carrying natural gas liquids and light ends. Fortunately it happened in the middle of a cornfield and not closer to Chicagoland where it was going. Liquids spills are not infrequent. My point is that it's not a good idea to shrug this off. 

My first point was pure snarky and I should apologize to everyone living in low population density areas. I've been having a similar argument since the early 1980s. My side of the augment is based on living in dense urban areas with finite land and the other side is based on living in wide open spaces. Wide open spaces are becoming less.