An EnergyWire analysis report has revealed that the number of spills at oil and gas production sites rose by around 18% in 2013, in spite of decline in the drilling activity rate.
According to the analysis, the US oil and gas industry was responsible for more than 7,662 spills, blowouts and leaks in 2013, which averages approximately 20 spills per day.
The EnergyWire report said that the combined spill volume added up to more than 26 million gallons of oil, gas, hydraulic fracturing fluid and other substances, roughly equivalent to 11 days worth of spillage from BP’s ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well.
The analysis finds the increase in drilling accidents since 2012 particularly jarring because the US has actually not seen an increase in drilling sites.
According to the American Petroleum Institute’s January data, the total number of wells in the country in 2013 stayed largely the same, actually decreasing 1% since 2012 as the US drilled substantially fewer gas wells in 2013, but increased its oil drilling; a trend seen most notably in Montana.
The spills increased to 48%, largely in line with the 42% increase in rig count figures.
Bakken Shale registered a 42% increase in spills despite the average number of rigs working in the state dropping by 8%.
Don Morrison of the environmental group Dakota Resource Council told EnergyWire: "We still have this mentality that we have to go faster and faster; when you’re rushing, things go wrong."
EnergyWire could not retrieve spill information from Louisiana as the state did not apparently have an accessible list of spills.
Louisiana officials said that the information would have been gathered in a Coast Guard’s National Response Center database but it was shut in.
According to EnergyWire, the lack of information from Louisiana is especially troubling given the amount of potential the state has for spills.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, Louisiana was second only to Texas in 2013 in both total and operating refinery capacity, and also has an enormous industrial sector consisting of multiple refineries and petrochemical plants.
Spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Mark Bruce said that production-related spills in Ohio doubled from 51 to 103, according to records.
However, the total number of spills is still less when compared with its neighbours and Ohio is bulking up its enforcement efforts in response to the increased activity.
EnergyWire’s report notes that data for each state’s spill records are difficult to compile. There is no national database for oil spills or other fossil fuel-related accidents.
Among the few states that record the causes of spills, the most common are equipment failure, corrosion and human error.
But more than 40 reports last year cited frozen valves or other cold weather problems as the cause.
The Associated Press’ October report says that nearly 300 oil spills and 750 "oil field incidents" that occurred in North Dakota since January 2012 went unreported to the public.