Refinery, community practice real-life spill response


Sometime late on Wednesday, July 19, a pipeline at Wyoming Refining Company begins to release jet fuel from a small, undetected leak in a product pipeline owned and operated by the company. The cause of the leak is unknown, and for an unknown reason, the leak goes undetected by the leak detection system for a number of hours. This leads to the release of jet fuel along the pipeline route just west of the WRC training center near Fairgrounds Road. Strong thunderstorms have moved through the area during the time before and during the leak, creating wet ground and the flow of local creeks. The creeks are flowing at approximately 0.80 feet per second, while jet fuel continues to leak from the line until a larger failure occurs somewhere around 5 a.m. Thursday. The leak is then detected in the control room when the sudden drop in pipeline operating pressure alerts the crews. The WRC control room operator immediately begins the shutdown process and notifies Magellan, which operates the Mule Creek Station at the other end of the pipeline, of the issues. 

Those responding to the situation realize that an unknown quantity of jet fuel has been released through the leak and has flowed down the ditch on the west side of Fairgrounds Road and pooled near the U.S. Highway 16 Bypass. The jet fuel also has also flowed across the road and through a culvert to the east where it is entering Little Oil Creek at the culvert under the bypass. 

WRC immediately implements the Wyoming Complex Facility Response Plan that includes making agency notifications and sending a crew to determine the extent of the release. The extent of the leak forces the closure of the bypass and the need to involve a number of agencies to not only redirect traffic but also to help inform the public of what is going on while the jet fuel is cleaned up and the leak is stopped. 

This scenario was the one presented to individuals representing different agencies participating in the Wyoming Refining Company’s command post drill on Thursday, July 20.


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