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North Dakota oil leak highlights impending technology need

In the first half of December North Dakota saw the Belle Fourche Pipeline, which carries approximately 1000 barrels of oil per day, rupture and release over 176,000 gallons of oil.

It was a hit to the state which has not yet managed to clean up its massive Tesoro Corp spill from 2013 (840,000 gallons of oil were spilled) and already has a new disaster on its hands, but the impact on the industry is the discussion regarding detection technology that followed the incident.

It was days until the leak was discovered manually by a landowner but by that time it had seeped into a creek and additionally damaged both private and public land. The problem lays in the failure of the monitoring technology used by True Companies’ who own and operate the pipeline – it did not detect the leak at all, reporting an “all-okay” throughout the state of rupture, even with hours and hours between breakage and discovery. A spokeswoman for the company, Wendy Owen, said it is unclear why the system did not respond correctly. It is even more pressing as True Companies have had 36 reported oil spills in the last ten years, this one being the most notable. The cause of the leak remains unknown.

It is worrying that a company with nearly 70 years’ worth of experience struggles with technology for the identification of ruptures in the pipeline when it was specifically designed to do this. Particularly the amount of time that passed before detection is a major cause for concern as no response was triggered from the system at any point at all. It only shows just how much space there is to further improve such systems, maybe even to the extent where any damages to the pipeline are fixed automatically without human involvement. However you look at this, North Dakota’s disaster should serve as a warning that better solutions are needed if the industry wishes to avoid similar problems from occuring in the future.

One of Dashboard’s missions is to make oil production as uncomplicated as possible, maximising the efficiency and output. We focus on preventing such occurrences as well as speeding up the detection process to eliminate any unnecessary loss of oil and this oil spill shows just how vital this work is. With our own solution, we aim to minimise these negative episodes and eventually eliminate them once and for all. We seek to be the answer to the question of the future of problem detection.