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What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters the Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About

A look back at some of the fossil fuel disasters that made headlines in 2013, along with several others that went largely unnoticed.
 
 
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Firefighters battle the flames after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013.
Photo Credit: AFP

 
 
 
 

While coal, oil, and gas are an integral part of everyday life around the world, 2013 brought a stark reminder of the inherent risk that comes with a fossil-fuel dependent world, with numerous pipeline spills, explosions, derailments, landslides, and the death of  20 coal miners in the U.S. alone.

Despite all this, our addiction to fossil fuels will be a tough habit to break. The federal Energy Information Administration in July  projected that fossil fuel use will soar across the world in the come decades. Coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — is  projected to increase by 2.3 percent in coming years. And in December, the EIA said that global demand for oil would be even higher than it had projected, for both this year and next.

Here is a look back at some of the fossil fuel disasters that made headlines in 2013, along with several others that went largely unnoticed.

Pipelines

March 29: An ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian Wabasca heavy crude from the Athabasca oil sands ruptures and spills thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas. The ruptured pipeline  gushed 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude into a residential street and forced the evacuation of 22 homes. Exxon was hit with a  paltry $2.6 million fine by federal pipeline safety regulators for the incident in November — just 1/3000th of its third quarter profits.

May 20: Underground tar sands leaks start popping up in Alberta, Canada, and  do not stop for at least five months. In September the company responsible was ordered to drain a lake so that contamination on the lake’s bottom can be cleaned up.  As of September 11, the leaks had spilled more than 403,900 gallons — or about 9,617 barrels — of oily bitumen into the surrounding boreal forest and muskeg, the acidic, marshy soil found in the forest.

July 30: About 50 tons of oil spills into the sea off Rayong province of Thailand from a leak in the pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc. It was the fourth major oil spill in the country’s history.

August 13: An ethane and propane pipeline belonging to Tesoro Corp. running beneath an Illinois cornfield  ruptures and explodes. Residents heard a massive blast and then saw flames shooting  300 feet into the air, visible for 20 miles.

September 29: A North Dakota farmer winds up discovering the  largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, the size of seven football fields. At least 20,600 barrels of oil leaked from a Tesoro Corp-owned pipeline onto the Jensens’ land, and it went unreported to North Dakotans for more than a week. An AP investigation  later discovered that nearly 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents” had gone unreported to the public since January 2012.

October 7: An Oil and Natural Gas Corp. pipeline that carries crude from the offshore Mumbai High fields to India ruptures and spills at an onshore facility, but  oil winds up flowing into the Arabian sea because of rainfall.

October 9: A natural gas pipeline explodes in northwest Oklahoma,  sparking a large fire and prompting evacuations. No injuries or deaths were reported.

October 30: 17,000 gallons of crude oil spill from an eight-inch pipeline  owned by Koch Pipeline Company in Texas. The spill impacted a rural area and two livestock ponds near Smithville and was discovered on a routine aerial inspection.

November 14: A Chevron natural gas pipeline explodes in Milford, Texas, causing the town of 700 people to evacuate. The flames could reportedly be seen for miles.

 
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