Alberta Pipeline Leak: Nexen Pipeline Leak In Alberta Spills Five Million Liters Of Emulsion by Aditi Simlai, July 17, 2015, HNGN
A Nexen pipeline has leaked in Alberta, spilling five million liters of emulsion. Nexen Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of China’s CNOOC Ltd, has shut down a pipeline at its Long Lake oil sands facility in northern Alberta after it leaked 31,500 barrels of emulsion, the company said on Thursday. Emulsion is a mixture of bitumen, produced water and sand that is a byproduct of oil sands extraction.
In terms of volume, the incident is one of the largest environmental spills on land in North American history, greater than the estimated 20,082 barrels of crude oil released in Michigan from Enbridge Inc.’s Line 6B rupture in July 2010, according to Reuters.
Nexen said the spill was detected on Wednesday afternoon and covered approximately 16,000 square meters (4 acres) but was mostly contained within the pipeline’s right of way, which includes muskeg. The Alberta Energy Regulator said it did not contaminate any water bodies.
The pipeline and connecting pad site have since been isolated, stopping the leak, and there were no injuries.
Nexen senior communications adviser Kyle Glennie said the company was investigating the cause of the leak and did not know how long it would take to get the pipeline back in service. He was unable to comment on whether production at Long Lake would be affected.
Peter Murchland, public affairs spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator, said investigators had been dispatched. “They are undertaking a fuller assessment of the site and will initiate an investigation, and working with the company to ensure safety and environmental requirements are met,” Murchland said.
“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 in the statement issued Thursday, according to CBC.
The spill comes at a time when Canada’s premiers are meeting in St. John’s, N.L., and one topic of discussion is a national energy strategy. “As provincial premiers talk about ways to streamline the approval process for new tar sands pipelines, we have a stark reminder of how dangerous they can be,” Greenpeace said in a news release about the latest spill, reports Huffington Post. [Emphasis added]
Nexen apologizes for major pipeline spill as crews work on cleanup by Bill Mah, july 16, 2015, Edmonton Journal in Calgary Herald
Nexen is cleaning up a five-million litre spill caused by a break in a feeder line.
Nexen Energy apologized Friday for a major pipeline spill in a remote site south of Fort McMurray.
“We sincerely apologize for the impact that this has caused,” said Ron Bailey, senior vice-president of Canadian operations, during the company’s first news conference since the break was first revealed Thursday.
The leak itself happened on Wednesday.
The double-walled, 20-inch pipeline at the company’s Long Lake steam-assisted gravity drainage mine about 36 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray spilled about 5,000 cubic metres, or five million litres, of emulsion.
The emulsion contained about 33 per cent bitumen, water and sand. Bailey said the pipeline was shut down and the spill mostly contained after a contractor walking by noticed the spill. [Where are Encana’s APEGA member engineers? It’s their professional requirement to protect the public!
An investigation is underway to find out why monitoring devices on the line did not alert the company earlier and to find a cause, Bailey said. [Emphasis added]
Nexen baffled [cheap pipe from China perhaps? ground and pressure changes caused by the companies injecting massive cumulative volumes of steam under massive pressures, and not stopping even when they and the regulator know they’ve fracing the caprock?] by “fish mouth” leak from new double-walled pipeline by Dan Healing, July 17, 2015, Calgary Herald
Oilsands emulsion surged out of a hole that looked like a “fish mouth” in a northern Alberta pipeline this week even though it was a high-pressure, double-walled, 20-inch conduit that had been installed less than nine months ago, a Nexen executive revealed Friday.
Furthermore, the leak which spilled five million litres of bitumen, produced water and sand over an area the size of three football fields was detected by a contractor walking in the area because systems designed to shut the pipeline automatically had not been activated, Ron Bailey, senior vice-president of Canadian operations, told reporters at a news conference at a downtown hotel.
The company is “deeply concerned” and “sincerely apologizes” for the impact of the leak, Bailey said, adding the incident has been noted at the Chinese headquarters of CNOOC Ltd., the international oil company that bought Calgary-based Nexen Inc. for $15.1 billion in 2013.
“Our parent company has been extremely supportive,” Bailey said. “CNOOC had people online on video conference with us almost immediately as we stepped up our response and they continue to be very supportive, including an email to me from the president last night.”
He said Nexen chief executive Fang Zhi was in China when the leak was detected.
Bailey said the pipeline was shut down immediately and will remain closed for an undetermined time. Crews had contained the spilled material with a berm where it fouled muskeg at one end although most of it pooled on the pipeline right-of-way. Vacuuming of the spill was expected to begin Friday morning.
The pipeline was double-walled to provide insulation for the steam-bitumen mixture, operating at 100 degrees C, over the 10-kilometre distance, he said. It ran at a pressure of 1,000 kilopascals, about 145 pounds per square inch.
He said the company doesn’t know what happened to the line or the monitoring equipment and can’t comment on causes until the pipeline experts it has hired have completed their investigations. He said Nexen doesn’t know when the pipe began leaking.
In a conference call from the Canadian premiers meeting in Newfoundland on Friday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the spill must be rigorously investigated and will result in clear recommendations to reassure the public about pipeline safety.
“We’re going to get, I think, public trust from identifying what went wrong and then ensuring we find ways to fix it,” she said. [Two pipeline spills a day in Alberta for years, and one investigation is going to reassure Albertans?]
“We know, statistically, that pipeline incidents and pipeline leaks are decreasing [Reality check! New pipelines are leaking worse than old ones!] as more and more older pipelines are decommissioned but we also know that we can do better.”
The break in a relatively new pipe and the failure of leak detecting systems are a concern, said Vern Janvier, chief of the nearby Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, who added he remains generally a supporter of the oilsands industry for its economic benefits.
“It’s hard to see spills, though, right?” he told the Herald in an interview.
He said the leak occurred in a area that is open to the public but that local people avoid because of its high level of industrialization, with Long Lake, Enbridge Inc. pipeline and storage facilities and the neighbouring Surmont project operated by ConocoPhillips.
“The way it was explained to me, this spill is contained within the right-of-way, a really level clay surface except on the end where there’s some muskeg,” said Janvier.
“There was a spill last year with Enbridge into a creek right on a hill and that one, even though it was smaller in size, I still think it made a lot more mess and was a lot harder to clean up.”
Meanwhile, Bailey said overall production at the Long Lake oilsands facility is down about 20 per cent.
The plant, opened in 2008, has never come close to its nameplate capacity of 60,000 barrels per day of upgraded oil from 72,000 bpd of raw bitumen.
The burst pipeline connected new steam-assisted gravity drainage wells pads at an expansion area called Kinosis opened last year to the upgrader at the main Long Lake site, about 35 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray.
Bailey said despite the addition of 9,000 bpd from Kinosis, the project was producing just 35,000 bpd of upgraded crude from about 50,000 bpd of bitumen. He said the upgrader was recently restarted after a maintenance turnaround and will continue to produce from wells in the original area of the lease.
The Alberta Energy Regulator has said it will remain on site to oversee the cleanup. It said it is requiring Nexen to implement a wildlife protection plan in the area.
The Nexen spill is one of the bigger ones in recent years. 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.
In 2011, about 4.5 million litres of oil leaked from a Plains Midstream pipeline into marshlands near the northern Alberta community of Little Buffalo. A year later, about half a million litres of oil spilled from another Plains pipeline in central Alberta.
Slide from Ernst speaking events
One of the largest leaks in Alberta history has spilled about five million litres of emulsion from a Nexen Energy pipeline at the company’s Long Lake oilsands facility south of Fort McMurray.
The leak was discovered Wednesday afternoon. Nexen said in a statement its emergency response plan has been activated and personnel were onsite. The leak has been stabilized, the company said.
The spill covered an area of about 16,000 square metres, mostly within the pipeline corridor, the company said. Emulsion is a mixture of bitumen, water and sand.
The pipeline that leaked is called a “feeder” and runs from a wellhead to the processing plant.
“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 in the statement issued Thursday.
Peter Murchland, public affairs manager for the Alberta Energy Regulator, said officials were notified late Wednesday and had staff onsite Thursday to work with Nexen.
“My understanding is that the pipeline and pad site had been isolated and shut-in earlier today, effectively stopping the source of the release,” Murchland said
Nexen has contained the leak and started cleaning up the area, he said. There was no word on how long that might take.
“They go through a cleanup phase in accordance with the regulations set by the AER,” he said. “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.”
The regulator’s staff are there to oversee the company’s cleanup efforts. Murchland said there have been no reports about any effect on wildlife. The regulator has ordered the company to implement a wildlife protection plan.
‘Stark reminder,’ Greenpeace says
Greenpeace issued a statement Thursday that called the spill a “stark reminder” of how dangerous pipelines can be.
“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,” said Peter Louwe, Greenpeace communications officer. “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.”
In April 2011, a Plains Midstream Canada ULC pipeline leaked 4.5 million litres of crude oil near a First Nations community in northwest Alberta.
That leak was the largest in the province in 35 years. It contaminated more than three hectares of beaver ponds and muskeg in a densely forested area.
Latest pipeline spill provides more fuel for industry’s critics by Stephen Ewart, July 17, 2015, Calgary Herald
A day after acknowledging an increase in the number of pipeline failures, the Alberta Energy Regulator is now investigating one of the biggest ruptures in the province in years.
Oilsands producer Nexen is estimating more than 31,000 barrels of emulsion — a mixture of briny water, bitumen and sand — spilled in the muskeg at its Long Lake operations southeast of Fort McMurray on Wednesday before the flow was halted.
The cleanup and an investigation by the AER is underway.
The Nexen spill was discovered just as the regulator was releasing its 2014-15 annual report that revealed the number of pipeline “incidents” in Alberta rose 15 per cent last year despite the AER’s well-publicized efforts to reduce ruptures and spills.
The report counted 773 pipeline “incidents” in the province in 2014 compared with 658 in 2013, but other AER documents reveal the volumes spilled last year declined more than 5o per cent from the previous year despite the increase in the number of incidents.
The AER defines “incidents” as reportable releases of hydrogen sulphide, hydrocarbons or produced water and any release that affects a body of water.
The volume of produced (salty) water that spilled from the network of pipelines declined from almost 125,000 barrels in 2013 to 55,000 barrels in 2014, while the volume of hydrocarbons that spilled fell from 7,875 barrels in 2013 to 3,786 barrels in 2014, according to the AER.
The AER report noted “while the overall incident rate was up, most of that increase were smaller incidents with limited environmental impacts; there were fewer large pipeline releases.”
Until now, that is.
Nexen’s Long Lake spill is more than half the total volume of produced water and hydrocarbons spilled in the province in 2014. Greenpeace Canada said Thursday the spill is “a good reminder that Alberta has a long way to go to address its pipeline problems.”
In its report, the AER noted the number of pipeline incidents increased to 1.6 per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline in 2014, from 1.4 in the previous year. The AER has targeted a four per cent decrease in the overall number of pipeline “incidents” from 2014 to 2017.
The AER regulates 933 companies operating more than 421,000 kilometres of natural gas, crude oil and other pipelines. The network transported most of the $110 billion in petroleum produced in 2014 in the province and accounts for almost 80 per cent of the crude oil and gas in Canada.
When a pipeline operated by Plains Midstream Canada ruptured and spilled 28,000 barrels of crude oil near a First Nations community in northwest Alberta in 2011, it was described the largest pipeline spill in the province in 35 years.
In 2013, Apache Corp. spilled 60,000 barrels of produced water near Zama City in northern Alberta.
Following a second high-profile oil spill by Plains into the Red Deer River system in 2012 and a rupture on an Enbridge oil pipeline near Elk Point, the Alberta government launched a review of pipeline safety. That study concluded the industry was generally well-managed but there was a need for more safety at water crossings. In March, the province’s auditor general came out with six more recommendations to improve the AER’s effectiveness around pipeline safety.
With the public criticism, the industry has also made pipeline integrity and safety a priority.
Landowners and environmental groups have long complained the AER — and its predecessor organizations that date to the 1930s — is far too easy on companies that have operational failures. Many were critical earlier this month when the AER issued an administrative penalty of just $16,500 to Apache for the 2013 spill that went undetected for weeks.
Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley was critical of the regulator’s “pro-industry mandate” as an opposition politician and had promised a “vigorous review” of the AER’s mandate. The new premier has also raised the possibility of reinstalling some functions that were moved to the AER from the Environment Ministry back under direct government oversight.
Three months into her tenure as premier and pipeline politics — oil spills to climate change — are already emerging as a defining issue for Notley.
Even as Notley gets a lesson in the political realities of getting her fellow premiers onside for any new pipelines from the oilsands at the Council of the Federation in St. John’s, N.L., she also got a reminder of the importance of pipeline concerns back home.
It’s a mess on both fronts and — on seemingly every level — it will take a lot of hard work to clean up. [Emphasis added]
AER report shows pipeline ‘incidents’ rose 15 per cent in 2014 by Stephen Ewart, July 16, 2015, Calgary Herald
The number of pipeline “incidents” in Alberta rose 15 per cent in 2014 despite the Alberta energy regulator’s goal of reducing ruptures and spills.
In its 2014-15 annual report released Wednesday, the AER said the number of pipeline incidents increased to 1.6 per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline in 2014, from 1.4 in the previous year. Alberta, which produces almost 80 per cent of the crude oil and natural gas in Canada, has more than 421,000 kilometres of pipelines regulated by the AER.
That failure rate works out to 773 incidents in 2014 compared with 658 in 2013; when there was 6,000 fewer kilometres of pipelines in the province. The AER has targeted a four per cent decrease in pipeline “incidents” from 2014 to 2017.
The regulator defines “incidents” include reportable releases of hydrogen sulphide, reportable releases of hydrocarbons or produced water and and any release that affects a body of water.
The report didn’t list the volume of hydrocarbons spilled. [AER afraid of the truth or afraid of the truth getting into the hands of Canadians vehemently opposed to endless such toxic “mystery” spills across the country?]
“This increase is in large part due to both the AER focusing more attention on the pipeline sector through inspections and education, and operators doing a better job of checking their lines and reporting any problems,” [What butcher shop sold the AER that baloney?] AER spokesman Peter Murchland said. “While the overall incident rate was up, most of that increase were smaller incidents with limited environmental impacts [Does the AER ever admit to any human health or environmental impacts? Even massive toxic spills of fracs that pollute public drinking water supplies?]; there were fewer large pipeline releases.”
Meanwhile, the transition to funding of the AER entirely by the oil and gas continues. The annual report said the industry levy increased 42 per cent in 2015 – almost $77 million – to $258 million this year as a provincial grant fell 45 per cent to $36.3 million. [Then why did Prentice give the AER $250 Million – $50 Million more than for the previous year – in his budget before he and his Harper Wildrose party got punted out?]
The AER’s budget is $287.9 million in 2o15.
The government grant will be eliminated in 2016 and the AER forecasts the bill to industry increasing five per cent to $270 million. [What about the $250 Million given to the AER from public funds by Prentice et al?]
A series of reforms to improve efficiency [TRANSLATION: Deregulate and spread the massively horrific and damaging play-based blanket approval one size fits all Fox Creek frac frenzy across Alberta, crown lands and private lands?] will offset higher costs for industry [TRANSLATION: Massively increase private profit taking for companies while dumping more liabilities, risks, harms, damages and health impacts on the public, workers and communities invaded?], the AER said.
“By reducing duplication and finding new approaches to [de]regulatory oversight, we have generated more than $270 million in verified annual savings for industry—making the AER a ‘levy-neutral’ regulator,” the annual report said.
The report cited the progress integrating parts of the provincial environment ministry into the regulator [TRANSLATION: Giving the oil and gas industry total control of Alberta’s fresh water and environment to frac with while the “no duty of care” legally immune deregulator lies, bullies and covers-up or looks the other way] but new NDP Premier Rachel Notley has raised the possibility of moving those [WATER AND ENVIRONMENT]
functions back under the direct government oversight [where they need to be.]