If a well blows on the Oil Patch…

“It appears we had an equipment failure of some sort.” — Oil company spokesman

With the oil business comes the occasional violation of the environment. North Dakota has found that yesterday (if it didn’t already know) when an active oil well east of New Town blew out and spewed oil near Lake Sakakawea.

KXNet in in Minot provided this video on its Facebook page.

The comments of the station’s audience on the Facebook page indicated that people consider it an acceptable alternative to walking.


  • Robert Moffitt

    No rational person belives we can wean ourselves off oil completely, but we can at least take the first steps.

    Super America just added 11 new E85 outlets in the metro area. Kwik Trip just opening a compressed natural gas station near Winona yesterday. Last month a new biodiesel blending facility in Sioux Falls opened, meaning biodiesel will be available in SW Minnesota year-round now.

    Small steps, perhaps, but at least some of us are moving away from tradional petroleum fuels.

  • joeb

    Active wells don’t have workover rigs on them. The well was not in production, nor were they drilling at the time–workover rigs are used to reconfigure production equipment downhole.

    People forget that oil is a naturally occurring substance, not some contrivance from Hell, but part of nature, too


    CNG comes from oil wells, too, the gas is dissolved in the oil, and after processing, compressed, just as propane and butane are liquefied from the raw gas produced with oil (as are a host of other organic molecules).

    As for the E85, what fuel is used to grow the food that is made into Ethanol? (Diesel–which comes from oil.)

    If you want to burn food, that is up to you, but I’d rather burn oil and eat. We’d have used alcohol fuels long ago if they were as efficient as oil.

  • Emery

    I’m not actually a member of the oil and gas industry, but I do work in the chemical industry, and I do manage risks to employees and the public every day, so I have no trouble seeing the perspective of the drillers. We tend not to use terms like “massive ecological disaster” as lightly or with as little precision as some have, but we do spend an enormous amount of time and care complying with regulations, and worrying about safety, health and the environment. If only the financial industry guarded against risks to the economy as carefully as the oil and gas or chemical industry guards against risks to the environment.

    Secondly, the fracked gas wells have in fact been producing more than had been predicted. The resulting glut has driven gas prices down, but as new users emerge and the predictions improve, the drillers will get it right. Many coal plants are converting to gas rather than retro-fitting with new pollution control devices mandated by the EPA.

    Natural gas, by the way, is essential in the short term to allow us to shut down coal plants, and in the long term to provide load balancing for intermittent renewable sources of power. We will not manage our climate change problems without cheap fracked natural gas, so embrace the technology and encourage its improvement.

  • Emery

    One last thought about fracking..

    All new technologies involve trial and error, and a certain amount of figure-it-out-as-we-go. Regulations are emerging as the technology is implemented and evolves. Small wild-catters who cut corners are curtailed. We make mistakes and recover from them.

    Managing risk is very different from eliminating risk. There can be no progress without risk; the economy does not function without risk. Demand prudent regulation, yes. Punish violators, yes. But please don’t demand the elimination of risk, as that is impossible, and always has been.

    All energy derives from the fusion of atoms in the sun, one way or another. In another century we might easily have solar arrays in space beaming down power, or we might have mastered enough technology to pull off fusion power on earth. We also might have a lot fewer people populating the planet. I would bet on lots of solar arrays, probably nano-engineered to mimic the physics of photosynthesis.

  • Robert Moffitt

    You seem pretty well-informed about the oil business, joeb, but you left a few points out.

    With apologies to Bob for getting on my soapbox (again), I’ll respond.

    First, tailpipe emissions are the single largest source of air pollution in the state of Minnesota.

    While propane is derived from petroleum and natural gas is a fossil fuel, both are cleaner-burning fuels than either gasoline of diesel.

    As for E85, the energy balance of production for gasoline is -19% — diesel is -17%. Ethanol is +87% and biodiesel is +450%.

    In layman’s terms, it takes more enegy to produce and refine traditional petroleum fuels than they deliver.

  • Ed

    In MN (according to the MCPA) electric utilities produce more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. Agriculture is in a close third place, how much of that is a result of corn based ethanol production?

    Less consumption needs to be the primary solution, we will never be able to achieve energy independence by increased production alone.