Guest Post: North Dakota Farmer Stumbles on Massive Oil Leak

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Joao Peixe via,

A farming harvesting his fields in North Dakota has come across a massive oil spill, undetected long enough to become the size of seven football fields.


Local media reports cite farmer Steve Jensen as saying the crude appeared to becoming from a rupture in an underground pipeline operated by Tesoro Corp.

The farmer noted that he had smelled the crude for days but it wasn’t until he began harvesting his wheat fields that he discovered the source of the smell, as his combine got caught up in crude spewing up to six inches above the ground.


The spill, discovered on 29 September and since contained, is one of the largest ever in the history of North Dakota. A total of 20,600 barrels of crude was leaked into the field, spreading over 7.3 acres. To put this into perspective, this leak is four times larger than a leak in Arkansas in late March that prompted the evacuation of 20 residences.

It took state authorities 12 days to report the spill after the farmer alerted them.

According to Tesoro Corp., no water sources were contaminated during the spill, but the fact that it went undetected long enough to spread so far, coupled with the 12-day reporting delay by officials, has raised more questions about leak detection policies.

"There are many questions to be answered on how it occurred and how it was detected and if there was anything that could have been done that could have made a difference," state Governor Jack Dalrymple told reporters.

"Initially, it was felt that the spill was not overly large," Dalrymple said. "When they realized it was a fairly sizable spill, they began to contact more people about it."

The spill gives more ammunition to watchdog groups who have been calling for more transparency and better leak detection processes for pipeline operators.

Earlier leaks in Kalamazoo and Arkansas were massive and caused by complete pipeline ruptures. These are rare incidents that account for less than 10% of leaks. But the small leaks--those that traditional pipeline detection systems don’t catch—account for more than 90% of US pipeline leaks.  

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the majority of leaks are smaller but can persist for months or even years, and those that are even reported are generally done so by people who have stumbled upon them by accident.

In this case, the leak was larger than the Arkansas leak, but also only detected by a farmer who stumbled upon it with his harvesting equipment—and now the land will not be usable for planting for years.

According to Adrian Banica, CEO of Synodon--which has developed advanced remote sensing leak detection systems--traditional leak detection systems are only able to detect high level leaks above 1% of the pipeline flow.

Furthermore, as the Department of Transportation has recently pointed out, these systems only detect a leak at best about 40% of the time, irrespective of how big the leak is.

 “For catastrophic leaks, most pipelines use these flow meters which operate 24/7. But smaller leaks can only be detected by performing an above-ground survey either by foot patrol, vehicle or aircraft. The predominant technologies used would be sampling gas sensors, thermal cameras, laser detection or our remote sensing system,”

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Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:22 | 4058164 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Texas Tea

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:23 | 4058178 LetThemEatRand
LetThemEatRand's picture

Then one day I was farmin' for some food, and up from the ground came the spillin' crude.  

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:29 | 4058200 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

Let's see... 20,000 barrels over 7 acres gives him a 3,000 barrel per acre yield. And since they don't spend much on pipeline maintenance he'll probably do even better next year...

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:35 | 4058231 1000 splendid suns
1000 splendid suns's picture

His farm will be forced into sale to a big oil company. If he refuses, he'll mysteriously commit suicide.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 20:29 | 4058689 Boris Alatovkrap
Boris Alatovkrap's picture

In unrelated story, Russian custodial engineer is stumble on massive subterranean copper ore deposit, incur only minor injury.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 21:05 | 4058815 Cruel Aid
Cruel Aid's picture

Thank god they gave wind farms a pass on killing bald eagles. This oil shit has to end

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 21:00 | 4063244 RafterManFMJ
RafterManFMJ's picture

Your copper mine meme makes me lol every time!

You ever get stateside look up the RafterMan; man great uncle has a sandmine out West we can work.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 21:12 | 4058839 Osmium
Osmium's picture

If he's lucky.  If not, he will be pulled into an auger in a horrible accident without any witnesses.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:46 | 4058261 superflex
superflex's picture

At $100/barrel, he ought to do alright.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:51 | 4058519 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

I'll take "who is Jed Clampett" for $500.  ;-)

Seriously though, if it's on/near the surface, it's HIS.  They gotta buy him out.  Hope he goes for offshore bullion, not fiat or BTC.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 20:50 | 4058766 Buck Johnson
Buck Johnson's picture

No kidding, also I bet his property is contaminated big time.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:27 | 4058415 W74
W74's picture

I thought i was "a bubblin' crude"

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:50 | 4058512 LetThemEatRand
LetThemEatRand's picture

took a license.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 20:18 | 4058656 0b1knob
0b1knob's picture

 20,600 barrels at a conservative $80 pre barrel he now owes the oil company $1,648,000 for "stealing" their oil.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:59 | 4058235 spine001
spine001's picture

Impedance. Tyler they could simply and inexpensively use impedance sensors to monitor the impedance along every pipeline and detect tiny leaks through their effect in changing the intersensor impedance. If anybody is interested I can provide more details, the sensor is based on the construction of a no-leak statistical pattern for each segment of the pipeline and to monitor consistent and progressive deviations from the pattern.


Wed, 10/16/2013 - 04:32 | 4059562 Ratscam
Ratscam's picture

and to clean the spill in a natural way, refer to
i cannot believe that this product is not used more widely, although since 20 years on the market.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:21 | 4058168 Mordenkainen
Mordenkainen's picture

Bye bye Keystone XL

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:24 | 4058183 lolmao500
lolmao500's picture

The Keystone XL is already canceled no? Canada was tired of waiting so made a deal with the Chicoms instead.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:30 | 4058211 Mordenkainen
Mordenkainen's picture

There's a headline from today about how the gov't shutdown could delay a decision about it, so I assume it's still up for grabs.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:01 | 4058315 knukles
knukles's picture

Wookie's garden rots because the staff were told not to tend to it...
Like she couldn't go out and pick some tomatoes, make some spaghetti sauce herself for the starving brats in DC without EBT cards, what?
Goof is playing Golf
We'll get to that pipeline shit after we give a couple more speeches.
FFS, you people expect them to make decisions or work?!?!?

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:34 | 4058449 1100-TACTICAL-12
1100-TACTICAL-12's picture

Wookie & Goof...+1000 perfect...

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 07:39 | 4059731 kralizec
kralizec's picture

That Wookie ain't yard trained let alone house broken!

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:09 | 4058331 bonderøven-farm ass
bonderøven-farm ass's picture

The shut-down has already delayed a line I'm working on by at least 2 weeks.  The 'investors' were a bit tardy getting their Federal permitting bastards never counted on this ceiling debacle. HA!

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 20:48 | 4058759 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture


Cream of Wheat !

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 05:31 | 4059600 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

You misspelled "crude" there, pardner.  :>D

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:23 | 4058171 achmachat
achmachat's picture

so... was the wheat still good?

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:25 | 4058182 LetThemEatRand
LetThemEatRand's picture

As good as the Tuna in the Pacific and the groundwater below his farm that wasn't affected.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:56 | 4058294 Abiotic Oil
Abiotic Oil's picture

Don't forget the Corexit spiced gulf shrimp. Mmmmmmm.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:41 | 4058482 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


As good as the Tuna in the Pacific and the groundwater below his farm that wasn't affected.

"According to Tesoro Corp., no water sources were contaminated during the spill"

Close enough for government(-regulated) work. Let's build one over the Ogallala Aquifer.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:41 | 4058244 DriveByLurker
DriveByLurker's picture

It has excellent viscosity.


I predict the farmer will get rich on a niche product, "self-toasting toast", which will work just like match-light charcoal does.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:57 | 4058292 EscapeKey
EscapeKey's picture

Why, yes. After all, 20,600 barrels is the equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon (official BP numbers), and that was completely harmless (official BP informational leaflet).

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:03 | 4058324 knukles
knukles's picture

Ummmmm ....
Oh man....
You had to bring that shit back up....

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:20 | 4058388 EscapeKey
EscapeKey's picture

What shit?

The GoM has never been in a better state, now that BP generously have invested billions in creating a viable ecosystem for all of us to enjoy.


Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:52 | 4058531 knukles
knukles's picture


Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:37 | 4058459 1100-TACTICAL-12
1100-TACTICAL-12's picture

Hell yea nothing better than crude soaked GNO wheat , I'll take a double order..

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:24 | 4058173 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

Does this mean he's moving to Beverly Hills?

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:03 | 4058325 ptoemmes
ptoemmes's picture

Come listen to a story about a man named Jed...

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:21 | 4058399 W74
W74's picture' up came a bubblin' crude.  Aiwl that is.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:29 | 4058427 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture

Let's all sing it together now.

Ya'll come back now Keystone XL.....ya' hear?

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:24 | 4058179 lolmao500
lolmao500's picture

It'll probably commit suicide tonight... the oil company will totally not be implicated.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:25 | 4058184 Make_Mine_A_Double
Make_Mine_A_Double's picture

Just leave it be and that could become the biggest tourist attraction in North Dakota.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:20 | 4058375 knukles
knukles's picture

Treachery in Capitalism 101

Said farmer, being a real opportunist then takes piles of large bones and throws them into the deepest part of the oil.
Places billboards along Highway 2 between Minot and Williston announcing La Brea Tar Pit of the North...

With Elly Mae Clampett!

Charges $12 per adult, $7 per child, compleate with RV park, the Real Captain Spaulding's Thrill Rides and Kiddies Meat Market Adventure, the largest A&W Root Beer stand west of the Mississippi (including a nightly burning man style flaming model of Uncle Stinkie from Omaha) fountains of "oil soda" and "oil Slurpees", whorehouse, shooting range, bars and liquor stores (plural), casino and takes EBT cards
All on newly declared Indian lands and sacred burial grounds so not a thing ND or the Feds can do about it.
Becomes fucking millionaire

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 09:18 | 4059954 SokPOTUS
SokPOTUS's picture

You had me Elly Mae Clampett.  That stuff there just about drove me insane when I was 8 or 9 and I had no idea why...I just knew I *had* to watch it. 

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:26 | 4058190 TN Jed
TN Jed's picture

Monsanto will sue the farmer for patent infringement of Olestra.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:39 | 4058236 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

We banked so much from that deal.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 19:25 | 4058407 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture

Abiotic Anal Leakage

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:32 | 4058191 RaceToTheBottom
RaceToTheBottom's picture

Just light it on fire.  That will help find the leak. 

His crops will produce better next years anyway.  Maybe mix some diesel fuel with it to make sure it burns cleaner....  He can probably market it as Organic Crops

Fine the farmer for not being more in tune with his crops...

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:27 | 4058195 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Give the gophers more iPhones.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:28 | 4058196 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Little oil never hurt nuthin'.   We put it on salad right?  

Goddamn eco-commies wanna turn this here great-n-glorious country commie red, I'm tellin ya.

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 18:29 | 4058205 LetThemEatRand
LetThemEatRand's picture

Guy's a fucking wheat hugger.

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