Sublette leak spilled 21,000 gallons of produced water

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
— November 12, 2014

State environmental regulators are tracking a spill of 21,000 gallons of tainted water from an oil and gas operation pipeline on the Pinedale Mesa.

The Department of Environmental Quality has told QEP Resources, Inc. of its options to clean up the spill, which was discovered Oct. 26. QEP may be able to clean the area up voluntarily, according to a Nov. 6 letter to the operator.

DEQ could cite the company with a violation if the company does not clean up the spill. Several variables, including whether groundwater was polluted, factor into the cleanup, the DEQ letter said.

“We will look at what the impacts are,” DEQ spokesman Keith Guille said Wednesday. “It is important to us that those don’t happen and if they do they get reported to us.”

QEP shut down pumps, depressurized the system and stopped the flow within an hour and 15 minutes of learning of the incident, the company said in a report to DEQ emergency response coordinator Joe Hunter. The release occurred in the Tyler Draw area, according to a legal description the company provided to the DEQ. The pipeline runs underground.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas drilling and pumping. It is piped to a processing facility.

The leak contained “a small percentage of natural gas condensate from the QEPFS Stewart Point gathering area,” the company said in its Nov. 4 report to the state (click for PDF). It estimated the discharge contained less than 10 percent condensate.

The 500 barrels flowed as far as 5,250 feet from the release site, the company’s report said. The Green River is the closest water body and is about 2 miles west of the end of the spill.

The company, after consulting with the BLM on whose land the spill occurred, took all manner of measures to clean up the effluent, it said. Those efforts are designed “to collect residual hydrocarbons, if any, so they do not travel downstream from the release location,” the company said.

Results of soil sampling are pending, the report said. QEP also is investigating the cause and is monitoring the area more frequently, it said.

The operations are part of the Pinedale Anticline, one of several oil and gas fields in Sublette County. Pinedale Online reported Monday that the leak occurred in a pipe fitting connecting two segments of buried pipeline. (Click this link to the story.) It quoted a spokesman saying the company was reclaiming the area.

QEP officials were not available for immediate comment Wednesday afternoon.

— Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He began working at the Jackson Hole News in 1978, and was editor of the Jackson Hole News and Jackson Hole News&Guide before joining WyoFile. Contact him at or (307) 690-5586. Follow him @AngusThuermer.

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Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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