Feds Eye Oil Spills, Leaks at UT Monument

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 @ 12:04 PM gHale

There were four spills of oil or brine water involving the same company on land in or near the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah over a period of time and the federal government wants to know why.

Officials are working with Citation Oil on the cleanup associated with a release that happened in November 2013, said Joe Harris, a spokesman for the Dixie National Forest. The leak from a valve had an impact a pond at a well site and involves “some release” of oil, in addition to the saltwater solution, Harris said.

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The spill is three miles from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Forest Service property and not related to what the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) described as a “decades-old” larger spill exposed by a flood last fall.

Company crews have been burning off the oil at the pond and around its edges on Forest Service property, which Harris said will prevent the oil from spreading farther.

The investigation so far has not led to any evidence the leak spread beyond the pond into an ephemeral drainage system, he said. An independent assessment will determine the amount that spilled, Harris said. Company officials believe it is less than five barrels, he said, but the federal agency is awaiting official reports.

It is the second incident involving Citation wells and leaks on Forest Service property in the monument area revealed in as many years, Harris said.

In 2012, there was a “reportable” incident of a spill involving more than 10 barrels of brine water used in the production process. Harris said the water did contain some oil residue. The company received a notice of noncompliance by the Forest Service which asked for an updated spill plan, replacement of the aging pipeline and for the company to clean up the spill.

Harris said the company hired a private contractor to assist in this latest remediation.

BLM is working with Citation Oil on an old, large spill exposed due to torrential rainstorms in the Little Valley Wash area at the national monument.

“September storms undercut some of the ‘asphalt’ that had spread down the wash and hardened. It is a large spill, make no mistake,” said BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall.

The spill looks to have occurred about 1971, predating the designation of the monument, and came from a well that also predates Citation Oil acquiring the mineral rights, Crandall said. At that time, the well was a “solid” producer, she said, but by this year was only drawing out 15 to 17 barrels per day.

The well shut down March 24 after BLM authorities learned of the incident. An unrelated patch of a pipeline also led to the release of what Crandall said was probably 10 gallons or less of oil.

As a whole, Citation Oil has 19 producing wells on the Upper Valley Oil Field, of which five are on monument land.

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