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Leak at Fryburg Rail Loading Facility

A gas leak at the Fryburg Rail Loading Facility, which serves as 330-acre, 18-car rail loading facility for the Bakken Link Pipeline, prompted an evacuation and widespread reports of a strong odor of propane in Belfield and Dickinson early Tuesda...

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A gas leak at the Fryburg Rail Loading Facility, which serves as 330-acre, 18-car rail loading facility for the Bakken Link Pipeline, prompted an evacuation and widespread reports of a strong odor of propane in Belfield and Dickinson early Tuesday morning.

Speaking with the Press, the North Dakota Department of Health confirmed that the leak began at 6:29 p.m., Sunday, March 31. According to spokesmen with the department, the leak was contained in a concrete-lined vault. The leak is being cleaned up with a dual method process and a third-party company has begun monitoring the area with testing for air quality concerns.

Andeavor Logistics, upon the notification of the incident, immediately dispatched trained personnel to assist public safety officials in their response to the emergency.

“One of our vessels containing Ethyl Mercaptan started leaking onto a flange to our secondary containment which is basically a vault. The unfortunate part of this stuff is that a little tiny bit stinks a lot,” Ron Day, government and public affairs manager for North Dakota with Andeavor Logistics, said. “The toxicity levels are very high, but it is a nuisance odor. If you are constantly smelling it (the Ethyl Mercaptan) can cause headaches, which is what it’s designed to do.”

According to the Billings County Sheriff’s Office, changes in wind direction will likely result in the odor traveling into Belfield and Dickinson areas throughout the day, but stated that the public was not in any danger.

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“We received notification from Andeavor that there is a ethyl mercaptan leak at the Fryburg Rail Loading Facility,” A statement from Billings County Sheriff’s Office shared on Facebook read. “Those in the area may smell a strong odor of "propane" or an odor similar to "rotten eggs." Although the smell may be strong at times, the public is not in any danger.”

The leak has been contained and crews are working on the problem, according to the Andeavor Logistics.

“We are working around the clock with emergency response crews and are in the process of neutralizing what’s in the secondary containment and we are working to de-inventory the existing vessel,” Day said. “We have multiple area monitors set-up around the site, we have industrial hygienists and toxicologists that are out monitoring the area and all their instrumentation are not detecting detectable levels.”

According to Day, the odor will persist as the odor threshold is .4 parts per billion but isn’t toxic until 1,000 times higher than current levels.

Ethyl Mercaptan is a highly flammable chemical added to propane and/or natural gas to give it its recognizable smell. Ethyl mercaptan has a strongly disagreeable odor that humans can detect in minute concentrations, and as such is added to propane and/or natural gas since both are odorless gases.

The Department of Health said its chief concern at the moment is with the potential that an individual would not be aware of a propane leak in their own home as a result of the larger Fryburg Rail Loading Facility leak. To address these concerns, health officials have made contact with various area schools and fire service agencies.

The Billings County Sheriff’s Office said that should conditions change, the public will be notified via their social media account.

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