crude oil

Stateside
11:24 am
Wed July 23, 2014

President of GVSU looks back on the clean-up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Credit ARLIS Reference / Flickr

We've just marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most catastrophic man-made environmental disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was just after midnight on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the pristine waters.

The clean-up effort was staggering. Among those called to help was U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Thomas Haas. He was a chemist and an expert in hazmat cleanup. Twenty-five years later, that Lt. Commander is the president of Grand Valley State University.

“We had to figure out what clean meant,” Haas said.

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Stateside
11:11 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Cleanup continues four years after the Enbridge Energy oil spill in Michigan

Credit Steve Carmondy / Michigan Radio

This week marks four years since a pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy burst. It was a segment of Line 6B located just downstream from the pump station in Marshall.

The result? More than 1,000,000 gallons of oil have been recovered from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith and The Environment Report’s Rebecca Williams joined Stateside to talk about the effects of the spill four years later.

The spill affected about 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River, from Marshall downstream close to Kalamazoo. The bulk of the oil has been cleaned up. Smith said the river is still useable; you can swim, fish, and do other things that you could do before the spill. 

However, cleanup is still going on. The EPA is dredging Morrow Lake this summer and there are still areas of the river that are closed. Williams said there might always be some oil left in the area.

“What agencies here in Michigan have said is that you often don’t want to take all the oil out of sensitive habitats because you could end up doing more damage,” Williams said.

Smith said the dredging process can be very invasive and hurt a lot of habitats. After the ordered dredging is over, there will be more passive collection, that won’t be as harsh on the environment.

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Environment & Science
4:39 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Oil spills into Lake Michigan from BP refinery in Indiana

Cleanup crews work to deploy a containment boom along the Lake Michigan shoreline near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 25, 2014, to recover crude oil discharged from the refinery.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

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Stateside
2:29 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

An update on Lake Michigan oil spill

The cleanup on Lake Michigan.
Screenshot from The Chicago Tribune The Chicago Tribune

An interview with Michael Hawthorne, a reporter with The Chicago Tribune.

An oil spill from a BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., this week has raised new worries about the stepped-up processing of Canadian tar sands – and threats to Lake Michigan.

Considering that seven million people in Chicagoland depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water, even a little spill might be cause for concern.

Exactly what was spilled? How far did it spread? And has BP contained the leak?

We're joined now by Michael Hawthorne, a reporter with The Chicago Tribune.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Environment Report
11:52 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Will Enbridge Energy's new pipeline in Michigan be safer?

The new pipeline will run right behind David Gallagher's home.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A new oil pipeline is going underground in Michigan.

Enbridge Energy says this new pipeline will be bigger (36 inches vs. 30 inches) - it will pump more oil to the Marathon refinery in Detroit - and they say the pipeline will be safer. (The map in the slideshow above shows where the new line is going in.)

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Environment & Science
11:15 am
Fri August 16, 2013

EPA says 'No' to Enbridge oil spill cleanup extension request

EPA samples the air within 100 yards from the source of the spill.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected Enbridge’s request to extend the deadline to cleanup up part of an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

The EPA ordered Enbridge to do additional dredging in five parts of the Kalamazoo River where there are still significant deposits of crude oil from the 2010 oil spill near Marshall.   A broken pipeline leaked more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil into the river.

Enbridge expects to complete work on four of the five sites well before the EPA’s December deadline.

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Politics & Government
6:40 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

State senator wants to give incentive for any company that builds an oil refinery in Michigan

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state lawmaker says he has a plan to drive down Michigan’s high gas prices.

Senator Rick Jones says it’s time to build a new oil refinery.   But not everyone’s sold on the plan.

Jones introduced legislation that would give a ten-year property and equipment tax exemption to any company willing to build a new refinery in Michigan.

“And that’s exactly what we need in Michigan to make sure we have adequate supplies,” says Jones.

Jones says more supply means lower prices at the pump.

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Energy
12:27 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Citing public pressure, U.S. State Department extends comment period on Enbridge pipeline proposal

Enbridge's map of it's pipeline systems. Line 67 is part of the Lakehead System.
Enbridge Energy

The U.S. State Department has extended the public comment period on a proposal to nearly double the amount of crude oil that's shipped in a pipeline along Lake Superior.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 67, also known as the “Alberta Clipper” pipeline, runs from the tar sands region in Canada down to Wisconsin near Lake Superior. In the US, it's more than 300 miles long and three feet in diameter.

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Environment & Science
10:47 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Gas pipeline company proposes switch to crude oil transport

A pipeline that supplies much of Michigan's natural gas could be shut down ... and converted to carry crude oil. That's sparked a number of concerns from business and government.

Natural gas is plentiful and cheap right now.

That's why a Texas company filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- or FERC --  in July to shut down 770 miles of transmission lines across several states. It would either abandon them ... or eventually use the pipes to carry crude oil.

And that could affect how much a lot of people in Michigan will pay to heat their homes and businesses.

The pipeline owned by Trunkline Gas Company crosses into Branch County from Indiana. That's where Consumers Energy connects to it ... and distributes the natural gas to 45 counties in the Lower Peninsula.

Dan Bishop is a Consumers Energy spokesman. He says Consumers depends on Trunkline for 60 percent of the gas it supplies to 1.7 million customers in Michigan.

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Business
11:51 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Marathon Oil offers more money in Detroit neighborhood buyout plan

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is expanding its facility.
Marathon Oil Company

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is in the process of expanding its facility to process heavier crude oil from Canada.

The expansion brings the company's new refining equipment closer to Detroit's Oakwood Heights neighborhood.

Marathon has been offering to buy homes in this neighborhood to create a buffer zone between the refinery and other residential areas.

Some homeowners in Oakwood Heights have signed on with the buyouts, others have stayed put.

The Detroit News' Jim Lynch reports Marathon has upped the amount it's willing to pay:

This month, Marathon officials said 86 percent of the owners have chosen to enroll in the buyout program — meaning they are willing to have their home appraised and see a monetary offer from the company.

Marathon is sweetening the pot, too, as it initially set a minimum appraisal price of $40,000 per home but already has bumped that figure up to $50,000.

The buyout plan is expected to head off lawsuits from those who live in this area. So far, the program has avoided legal entanglements, but it has generated plenty of hard feelings.

Oakwood Heights is an area surrounded by heavy industry. In addition to the refinery, there's the city's sewage treatment plant, a salt mine, a steel factory, and other industries.

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Environment
1:49 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Crews ramping up cleanup efforts in Kalamazoo River near Marshall

Last summer an oil sheen could be seen along the Kalamazoo River. Now crews are working to clean up the oil that sunk to the bottom.
State of Michigan

Cleanup crews are collecting oil that remains at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River this week.

It’s been nearly a year since more than 840,000 gallons of heavy crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline near Marshall. More than 90% of the oil has been cleaned up already.

Becky Haase is a spokesperson for Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline.

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Investigative
10:19 am
Wed June 15, 2011

Why did gasoline prices spike in Michigan?

Production problems at refineries in the Midwest caused gasoline prices in Michigan to spike while crude oil prices remained stable.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Everybody’s got a theory why gasoline prices shot up.

“I think gas prices are up because we’re getting our gas from the wrong place.  We need to get gas from Alaska.”

“I think gas prices are up because it’s summertime and everybody wants to travel and it’s a conspiracy.”

 “Government regulators are not willing to rein in Wall Street.  If you can speculate on a commodity and you have a hedge fund that’s big enough, you can affect prices and earn profits.”

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Economy
10:53 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Middle East unrest may be felt in higher gasoline prices this summer

Fill 'er up?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Unrest in the Middle East may soon affect gasoline prices in Michigan. Crude oil prices are approaching one hundred dollars a barrel, which is expected to increase the cost of gasoline globally.

Nancy Cain is with AAA Michigan.   She says it’s too soon to predict whether or not the price for a gallon of regular unleaded will reach four dollars, like it did two years ago.

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