Onshore operators have something to address if their oil patches have livestock, especially livestock in need of scratching posts. A cow with an itch or curiosity might be to blame for the spill of natural gas condensate near Sully Creek, a tributary of the Little Missouri River in western North Dakota. The North Dakota Environmental Health Department said that a valve on a storage tank at a site owned by Oneok was accidentally opened May 27. The department suspects a cow rubbed against the valve, causing the release of about 20 bbl of natural gas condensate. “Booms have been put in place as a precaution. Cleanup of the area has begun,” a press release on the department’s website said. Add this to the list of unusual tasks energy companies have to prepare before: the potential of roaming bovine—and possibly other animals—using oilfield equipment as scratching posts. Thankfully, this one appears easier to remedy than more prominent onshore challenges such as increasing recovery rates or appeasing hydraulic fracturing critics. The incident appears to be rare, but North Dakota State Environmental Health Chief Dave Glatt said this isn’t the first time it has happened. A cow was to blame for a similar spill that happened a few years ago. In an Associated Press report, Glatt said energy companies have been told about securing the valves in the past and are being warned again. “They need to make sure their valves are locked,” Glatt said in the article. “They should kind of already know that because it can create issues for them.” In the latest incident, Glatt said the cow had an itch that needed scratching or was curious. “They just get rubbing along those valves, and they open up. Sometimes they need to scratch their backs, and they open those valves.” He added that cows are also known to have a taste for petroleum products, saying, “Sometimes they can be the dumbest animals in the world, and sometimes you kind of wonder.” It also kind of makes one wonder about the potential for greater damage. Oneok has reportedly locked the tank valve to prevent any future mishaps. This incident should serve as a warning call to others to take similar steps or take time to make sure such valves are still secure—or even better, give the cows more suitable scratching posts or something safer to engage curiosity. Perhaps a few fence posts with stiff brushes or curry combs attached would suffice. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at vaddison@hartenergy.com.