Pipeline Leaks You Have Probably Not Heard Of

There are thousands of miles of pipeline in the US. These are just a FEW of the leaks that mass media didn't tell you about.

Across the United States there are 185,000 miles of JUST liquid oil pipelines.   Pipelines leak, and for the most part, Americans are unaware of them.  In January of 2015 alone there were 2 MAJOR Pipeline leaks in North Dakota spilling more than 6 MILLION gallons of oil products. 

The most recent pipeline leak occurred on September 9, 2016.   Somewhere between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 of gas spilled when a Colonial Pipeline exploded in Alabama.  Alabama and Georgia declared a state of emergency before most people even knew about the pipeline explosion.  The declaration of emergency didn’t come because of environmental damage, but because of the possible gas shortage. 

The gas shortage was based upon the fact that a pipeline has to be shut down to repair it.    The parallel jet fuel pipeline has been converted to carry gasoline.  Gas prices in the southern states have gone up as supply begins to run low and completely out in some locations.  DOT regulations for truck drivers hauling gas to the Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina areas have been lifted allowing drivers to drive longer hours.  While this is a top story right now, it is not new nor it is the first time this has happened.  There is a LONG history of pipeline breaks all across America that most people are totally unaware of.  Read more here. 

Going back to the year 2000

In January alone 2,049,078 gallons of crude oil and refined oil leaked out of pipelines.  Here are some of the worst of spills. January 21 Chevron pipeline leaked in Utah spreading 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel over 38 acres of salt flats and wetlands.  75-80% was intentionally burned off destroying the habitat for many endangered birds as well as killing any were unable to escape.  Also on the 21 of January an Equilon pipeline ruptured off the coast of Louisiana spilling about 94,000 gallons of crude oil creating an oil slick 2 miles wide by 7 miles long.  On January 27, a Marathon oil pipeline spill in Kentucky leaked 490,000 gallons of crude. 

On February 5, 192,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania.  On March 9, 644,928 gallons of gasoline leaked out of a pipeline in Texas.  There has also been an additional 6 Natural Gas pipeline explosions releasing an unknown amount of Natural Gas in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and New Mexico.  The explosion of El Paso Natural Gas’s pipeline in New Mexico killed 12 people camping over 600 feet away.  The explosion created a crater 51 feet wide, 113 feet long, and 22 feet deep.


In 2001 we see a total of 2,068,240 gallons of crude and refined oil leaking out of pipelines across the United States.   Here are some of the worst spills.  1.1 MILLION gallons of gas leaked out of a Dome Pipeline in North Dakota on April 1.  In August 150,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in Oklahoma. Creating a 30-foot high shower of oil, which fell over nearby cotton crops.  On November 27, 123,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked into the Neches River in Texas.  Iowa had a 58,000-gallon anhydrous ammonia spill killing 1.3 million fish. 

In addition to the oil product leaks, Natural Gas, LP Gas, Propane pipelines were damaged causing unknown amounts to leak into Kansas, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana.   These explosions; killed 11 people, injured 23 more destroyed 2 buildings, and left a crater 15 feet in diameter.

The cost of cleanup for 2001 is estimated at over 200 million dollars, as many sites are sill ‘unfinished’ the actual cost is unknown.

These lists go on and on, but let’s fast forward through 2002-2009.


There were a total of 14 pipeline leaks; killing 2 children, causing 35 families to evacuate.   Leaking 1,397,320 gallons of crude and refined oil into the environment. 


A total of 24 separate spills leaked 1,392,864 gallons of crude and refined oil, causing the evacuation of more than 100 homes and an elementary school.  2 homes were totally destroyed and 2 others were damaged.  While no one was injured or killed, there is a HIGH reoccurrence of leaks from the same pipelines.  In one case the same pipeline leaked from 4 different locations in just 2003.


17 different events spilled 887,397 gallons of oil products killing 8 people and seriously injuring 15 more.  A 65-mile long pipeline in Kentucky reported 11 different leaks previous to the explosion that seriously injured 8 people.  That pipeline continues to be used today.


18 different leaks killing 6 and seriously injuring another 7 spilling over 1 million gallons of crude products.  160 families were evacuated because of explosions of Natural gas leaks in this year alone.  One explosion sent flames more than 300 feet into the air.
2006: 18 more leaks leaked 1.5 million gallon of oil products across the United States.  12 people were killed with another 3 injured.  A propane pipeline buried under an apartment building exploded killing 3 more and injuring another 47.  In another explosion an entire square mile area was evacuated and 43 million cubic feet of Natural Gas leaked out in Kentucky.


16 different leaks left 8 dead and 11 injured. 546,856 gallons of oil products leaked into the environment including more than 150,000 gallons into the Ohio River.  A large Natural Gas leaked ignited and wide spread wild fires left thousands of acres of Texas land blackened.


20 different leaks killed 6 people and injured another 11. 1,834,961 gallons of crude oil products leaked, with one of the largest leaks in the history of Texas accounting for 1.3 million gallons.


19 leaks spilled ONLY 380,120 of oil products into our environment.  This was the year for propane and Natural Gas leaks causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.  3 people died and another 5 were injured because of pipeline leaks. 

Pipeline Leaks in 2010

This is the year the costs of clean up for pipeline leaks exceeded $1 billion dollars.  It is also when the first major jump in the number of leaks increased.  44 ‘substantial’ leaks were reported.  North Dakota saw its second large leak of Bakken shale oil.  This leak accounted for 181,600 gallons leaking with little of the oil being recovered from the environment. 

On September 9 a high-pressure gas line exploded destroying 38 homes and damaging another 120 houses.  The explosion killed 8 people and seriously injured an untold number.  This particular pipeline had reported 26 leaks prior to this explosion.  In December crude oil was discovered in the Dominguez Channel in the Port of California.  Only about 1000 gallons were recovered.  The exact amount of the spill is unknown.  The leak was never reported to the Sate of Federal pipeline authorities.  There are 61 criminal charges facing company executives.  The court case is ongoing and there has been no final ruling as of yet.  At least 1.2 million gallons of oil products leaked into the environment in 2010.


88 spills account for the 2,138,700 gallons of crude products that leaked into our environment.  Pipeline leaks and explosions have killed 21 people and injured during 2011.  Dominion East Ohio gas company had several pressure regulators fail at the same time.  This caused fires in 11 homes one apartment and destroyed.  Another leak caused the death of 5 people and the injury of 8 more with the destruction of 8 houses in an explosion in Pennsylvania.  In July two more explosions killed 3 more people, injured 23 and destroyed another 11 homes. 

Exxon Mobile pipeline spilled 63,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River causing the evacuation of 140 people in the middle of the night.  And another 1.1 million gallons spilled in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  Clean up for this is estimated at $135 million dollars, which was surpassed in 2014. The clean up is still uncompleted today.  Exxon Mobil was fined $1 million dollars for this leak in 2015.


This year shows a LOT of leaks from pipelines that are less than 6 months old.  Of the 85 significant leaks this year, 8 were less than 6 months old.  The 4 leaks in North Dakota and the 4 in Louisiana, account for 399,700 gallons of oil products leaking into our environment.   42 people died and another 109 injured in pipeline explosions and leaks in 2012.


98 total leaks account for the 1.2 million + gallons of crude oil spilled this year.  21 of the pipeline leaks are from Natural Gas and Propane during this year.  Explosions killed 22 people destroyed 3 apartment buildings, a restaurant, and more than 300 acres of land due to fires.  One explosion knocked down over 200 trees and required the evacuation of 55 homes.   In some cases people smelled Natural Gas for days before it finally exploded.


99 leaks accounted for the over half a million gallons of crude oil spills.  Natural Gas leaks again make up a large number of the leaks with explosions causing larger and larger evacuation areas.  The death toll continues to rise as the number and violent nature of the explosions increase.  In 2014 alone 54 people died because of pipeline ‘leaks’.


102 significant leaks accounted for the 571,100 gallons of oil that spilled.  In Missouri the rupture of a 42-inch Natural gas pipeline blew a 20-foot by 20-foot crater in a residential area.  This explosion caused over $2.6 MILLION dollars in damage.  This is the first year that there was more than $5 million dollars in property damage due to explosions from rupturing pipelines.  While the number of gallons of oil products decreased from previous years, the cost of those leaks has gone up significantly. From 2010 forward pipeline leaks are still being cleaned up.  The costs have reached billions of dollars per year.   Sources: www.pstrust.org, www.api.org, https://hip.phmsa.dot.gov

Pipelines are NOT safe

Oil spills caused by hauling oil products by railway ‘only’ account for an average of 67,400 gallons a year.  The cost of building the pipeline, maintaining it, and trying to clean up the environment when it leaks pale in comparison.  The question then remains why, why build more pipelines?  The cost of pipelines is the answer to that question.  The companies behind BIG OIL profit from the leaks themselves.  There are only 7 ‘sisters’ that ‘own’ the oil.  They also own the pipeline companies, the clean up companies, and most of the oil wells themselves.  So, even when a pipeline leaks, they STILL make money from it.  

The United States government allows them to write off the cost of building the pipelines, they subsidize the cost of transportation, and the cost of refining it.  The total amount of money spent on lobbying is almost $61,000,000 a year.  When companies like Exxon Mobil can spend $5,740,000 on lobbying can you imagine the profits they are making?  Koch Industries spends $5,650,000 on buying our politicians who make the laws allowing them to do pretty much anything.  Chevron and Shell drop over $4 million each into the pool.   The dangers of pipelines are not taken into consideration when that much money is thrown at politicians.   You can read more about the money Big Oil is throwing into politics here.  

Today people are realizing we don’t need another pipeline.

Right now people are gathering together to stand up to BIG OIL over the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Pipelines transport the fracked Bakken shale oil to the refineries.  From there it goes all over the world.  Over the past 6 years there have been 35 significant accidents causing $42,388,355 in damages in JUST North Dakota.  For a state with population of just over 750,000 people that’s a VERY high price to pay.  Another pipeline is under construction as we speak.