'Significant' oil, brine spill affects White Earth River in Mountrail County

Submitted Photo Absorbent booms are seen in the White Earth River north of where an oil well spilled thousands of barrels of oil and brine water over the weekend and into Monday.
Submitted Photo
Absorbent booms are seen in the White Earth River north of where an oil well spilled thousands of barrels of oil and brine water over the weekend and into Monday.





WHITE EARTH, N.D. — An oil well in Mountrail County that has been out of control since late Saturday night leaked oil and brine water into the nearby White Earth River, but has since been contained to the well pad, a North Dakota Department of Health spokesperson said Monday.

Bill Suess, spill investigations program manager for the Department of Health, said about 1,760 barrels of oil and 2,000 barrels of brine water had been recovered from the Oasis Petroleum North America well site by 5 p.m. CDT Sunday, but that as of 3:30 p.m. Monday, the company hadn’t regained full control of the well.

“It’s a significant leak,” Suess said, adding, “flow from the well had diminished by a third” since the leak was first reported.

Oasis reportedly lost control of the well, about 15 miles south of White Earth and less than 5 river miles north of Lake Sakakawea, about 11 p.m. Saturday. Oasis said in a statement that there were no injuries.

“This one is a little different than the typical blowout,” Suess said. “Most blowouts tend to shoot up in the air. So far, we’ve been lucky on this one. It’s been coming out of the wellhead at a slight downward trajectory.”

He said that helped with recovery efforts, though it remains unclear exactly much oil and brine have spilled. Suess said he expected the well to be shut down by late Monday and spill estimates to be released after that.

Department of Health workers observed a light sheen on the White Earth River approximately 850 feet north of the well pad, Suess said.

Oasis said in a statement that the river experienced “minor impacts from the airborne mist.”

Multiple absorbent booms were placed across the river to help keep the spill material from migrating downstream toward Lake Sakakawea, Suess said. The White Earth River is a tributary to Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River, the primary drinking water source for southwest North Dakota.

“They can’t even see a sheen on the water any longer,” Suess said Monday afternoon. “What was there has been absorbed by the booms.”

He said workers were testing water the mouth of the river, where it meets Lake Sakakawea, and had found no sign of oil or brine.

“It doesn’t seem to have gone beyond the river,” he said, adding there have been some wind-blown effects.

Suess said a vegetative area of 40 acres outside of the well pad had been “lightly sprayed” with oil and brine.

The well, known as Helling Trust 11-15H, experienced a tank overflow on Jan. 23, according to a Department of Health spill report. About 130 barrels of oil and 60 barrels of brine were spilled, all of which was recovered.

The well site has been operational since October 2011. Oasis has dozens of wells in the township where the spill occurred, according to a well search on the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources’ website.

Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson Alison Ritter said Oil and Gas Division personnel are also at the site and are monitoring the situation.

Oasis said Superior Energy Services’ Wild Well Control is on location, along with its team, to conduct well control procedures.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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