Cow blamed for causing spill in oil patch

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A cow is suspected of causing a spill of natural gas liquids near a tributary of the Little Missouri River, prompting North Dakota regulators to warn energy companies to ensure their facilities are bovine-proof.

State Environmental Health Chief Dave Glatt said Thursday that a cow might have rubbed against a tank valve two days earlier, spilling about 20 barrels of natural gas condensate near Sully Creek, south of Medora in western North Dakota.

Condensate is a byproduct of natural gas production.

The state Health Department said the site is owned by a subsidiary of Oneok Inc., based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Glatt said cleanup is underway and absorbent booms have been placed in Sully Creek as a precaution.

The company did not immediately returned calls seeking comment Thursday.

Glatt said the cow was either curious or had an itch that needed scratching.

“They just get rubbing along those valves and they open up,” Glatt said. “Sometimes they need to scratch their backs and they open those valves.”

A similar spill that was blamed on a cow happened a few years ago, though Glatt did not immediately recall the details.

“I do know that this isn’t the first time it’s happened,” Glatt said.

Energy companies have been told about securing the valves in the past and are now being warned again, Glatt said.

“They need to make sure their valves are locked,” Glatt said. “They should kind of already know that because it can create issues for them.”

Glatt, who has relatives who ranch in North Dakota, is no stranger to cattle. He said cows have been known to have a taste for petroleum products.

“They like oil and they eat that stuff up,” said Glatt, who joked that the offending cow might have had such a craving and opened the valve intentionally.

“Sometimes they can be the dumbest animals in the world and sometimes you kind of wonder,” he said.

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