(Adds statement from company, background)
By Liz Hampton
March 24 A crude oil spill in western North
Dakota in December is now believed to be about three times
bigger than originally estimated, pipeline owner True Companies
said on Friday, making it the largest crude leak to affect water
in the state in over a decade.
The Belle Fourche crude oil pipeline spilled an estimated
12,615 barrels of oil, more than the December estimate of 4,200
barrels, spokeswoman Wendy Owen said in a phone call.
The spill is the second-largest crude spill in the state in
more than 15 years, behind a 20,600-barrel leak by a Tesoro
Logistics LP pipeline in 2013, according to data from
the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Around 80 percent of the cleanup is complete, Owen said,
noting the incident occurred following ground movement. Oil from
the pipeline leaked into the Ash Coulee Creek and on a hillside.
The pipeline operator has collected around 3,900 barrels of
oil from the creek by skimming and vacuuming, Owen said. No oil
moved further down the creek, which feeds into the Little
Missouri River and eventually flows into the Missouri River, a
major source of drinking water, she said.
The North Dakota Department of Health has not yet completed
a subsurface investigation on the hillside affected by the leak
to confirm how much oil remains, agency program manager Bill
Seuss said by phone on Friday.
The spill was not originally detected by monitoring
equipment, which True Companies has said was likely due to its
The spill occurred about 150 miles from where the Standing
Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists were protesting Energy
Transfer Partners' controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
Those groups said a spill could contaminate drinking water.
President Donald Trump signed executive orders paving the
way for the Dakota Access Pipeline and TransCanada Corp's
Keystone XL shortly after taking office. On Friday, he
issued a presidential permit for the Keystone XL.
The six-inch North Dakota pipeline has capacity to move
24,000 barrels per day, at a maximum rate of 1,000 barrels per
While Belle Fourche's impacted line remains shut for cleanup
operations, another line is moving crude oil from its origin and
The incident led to U.S. pipeline regulators ordering the
company to improve leak detections, along with other actions.
(Reporting by Liz Hampton in Houston and Nithin Prasad in
Bengaluru; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang)