Wednesday, July 22, 2015

31,000 barrels of emulsion leak from Nexen pipeline in Alberta

Fort Mcmurray - About five million litres of emulsion, or 31,000 barrels, leaked from a Nexen Energy pipeline, at the company's Long Lake oilsands facility. Emulsion is a mixture of bitumen, water, and sand. The leak is one of the worst in Alberta's history.
The leak was discovered on Wednesday afternoon. Nexen said that its emergency response plan had been activated with personnel onsite who were able to stabilize the leak. The pipeline is a feeder line that runs from a wellhead to a processing plant. Nexen issued a statement saying:"All necessary steps and precautions have been taken, and Nexen will continue to utilize all its resources to protect the health and safety of our employees, contractors, the public and the environment, and to contain and clean up the spill."The company said the spill affected about 16,000 square meters, mostly along the pipeline route. The spill is said to be equivalent to about 31,000 barrels.
Peter Murchland, public affairs manager for the Alberta Energy Regulator(AER), said that his officials had been notified Wednesday on the day of the strike and by Thursday had staff at the site to work with Nexen. Murchland said: "My understanding is that the pipeline and pad site had been isolated and shut-in earlier today, effectively stopping the source of the release,..They go through a cleanup phase in accordance with the regulations set by the AER. And we'll have our subject-matter experts work alongside the operator, today and going forward, to make sure that safety and environmental requirements are met."
While Murchland said that there had been no reports of negative effects on wildlife as yet, the company was ordered to implement a wildlife protection plan. Both Nexen and Murchland said that it was too early to know the cause of the spill. The company is investigating how long the line was leaking before it was turned off. The spill was the largest in Alberta in 35 years, although in April of 2011 a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline spilled 4.5 million litres of crude oil adjacent to a First Nations community, Little Buffalo, in northwest Alberta. In March, the AER investigated a spill of about 2.7 million litres of condensate at Murphy Oil's Seal oilfield in northwestern Alberta. Condensate is used to dilute heavy oil so it can flow through pipelines.
Greenpeace on Thursday issued a statement condemning Alberta's history of pipeline spills. The spill occurs as provincial premiers are meeting in St. John's with a major discussion topic a national energy strategy. This could very well involve speeding up the approval process for new tar sands pipelines. Peter Louwe,Greenpeace communications officer said:"This leak is also a good reminder that Alberta has a long way to go to address its pipeline problems, and that communities have good reasons to fear having more built, New pipelines would also facilitate the expansion of the tarsands — Canada's fastest-growing source of carbon emissions — and accelerate the climate crisis even more. We need to stop new pipeline projects before they're built and focus on building renewable sources of energy that are sustainable and won't threaten communities, our environment, and the planet."
While the emulsion has not flowed into any body of water, it did spill into muskeg according to the AER. Long Lake is about 35 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray.The facility uses steam to heat the bitumen in the oilsands enabling it to flow to the surface. Nexen, originally a Canadian company, was taken over by China's CNOOC several years ago.

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