(Ethete, WY) – Cleanup efforts continue as crews seek to remediate land impacted by an oil spill earlier this week on the Wind River Reservation. The leak was identified Monday afternoon at the Steamboat Butte Oil Field, which is operated by private contractor MI3 Petroleum Engineering and overseen by the Wind River Energy Commission.
MI3 has indicated to the Northern Arapaho Business Council (NABC) that the leak was due to a corroded steel flowline, and was patched within approximately 2 hours. Initial estimates from MI3 are that roughly 34 barrels of fluid escaped from the leaking flowline – consisting mostly of water, but also oil. The NABC is monitoring the situation, as are the Wind River Energy Commission and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
“The NABC seeks answers from oil field operator MI3 to better understand how this spill occurred so we can prevent future accidents,” NABC members said in a joint statement. “While we don’t yet have any indication local waterways have been contaminated, it is urgent that this oil be cleaned up and the land remediated as quickly as possible.”
MI3 has indicated it intends to replace the failed section of flowline with new pipe, and will be reviewing other oilfield lines and infrastructure for potential risk. On Jan. 1, 2023, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes retook control of the Steamboat Butte Oil Field after decades of leasing the field to private operators.
“Retaking control of this oil field and maintaining oversight by the Wind River Energy Commission likely enabled us to identify this leak more quickly and provides us the authority we need to ensure the contract operator is held accountable for remediation and repair,” the NABC continued. “The NABC will continue monitoring this situation closely to ensure it is handled appropriately, and will pass along more information to our Members and the public as soon as it becomes available.”