Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Lisa DeChano-Cook

Second Advisor

Adam Mathews

Third Advisor

Nicholas Padilla


Pipeline infrastructure is a particularly sensitive and unique energy transport mode. Pipelines carry gas, biofuels and liquid petroleum throughout the United States (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2019). These pipelines stretch beneath sensitive ecological areas, lakes, rivers and streams, and our homes and businesses. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) (2018), between all of the states in the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) there is a cumulative 801,718 miles of pipeline. This includes interstate and intrastate, natural gas and petroleum pipelines. 9,556.9 miles of this is the interstate crude oil pipeline.

This research looks to investigate how prepared pipeline owners and operators, and state and federal agencies are to respond to crude oil spills in the Great Lakes region. In particular this research investigated how crude oil incident response changed from before and after the catastrophic 2010 Kalamazoo River Enbridge oil spill. Due to the magnitude of the 2010 spill in the Kalamazoo River, this spill was used to compare crude oil spill response from before and after 2010.

To investigate this, crude oil incident data was retrieved from the PHMSA incident data webpage. Spills of five barrels (210 gallons) or more from 2002-2018 were investigated in detail. The spills were then split into two cohorts from 2002-2009 and 2010-2018. These spills were then mapped using ArcGIS Online as two different maps to display differences in cohorts. The response efforts and actions from top ten largest spills from each cohort were then investigated in detail. Due to the limited amount of information about spills only five from each cohort were able to be investigated.

Differences that were found between the two cohorts included the volume of spills, the location and the number of agencies that were involved in response. The 2002-2009 cohort had overall higher spill volumes than the 2010-2018 cohort. Additionally, more of the spills in the 2002-2009 cohort occurred on pipeline Right-Of-Ways compared to the 2010-2018 cohort where more spills occurred at tank farms.

In order to tell the story of pipeline infrastructure in the United States and in particular the Great Lakes, all of this information, including information about the spills from 2002-2018 were included in an ArcGIS story map. The primary objective of this research was to highlight how crude oil response changed from before and after the 2010 Kalamazoo River Enbridge oil spill and to create awareness around pipeline and pipeline spill response in the Great Lakes.


Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access