UPDATE: The Alberta Energy Regulator has issued an Environmental Protection Order to Nexen. They’ve been directed to contain the spill, notify affected parties and test the area for chemicals. The company will need to develop management, mitigation, and remediation plans, and publish daily reports. A final report will be due within 30 days of completion. Some of the work is already underway.
An automatic detection system didn’t pick up on a ruptured pipeline that has leaked an estimated 5 million litres of emulsion. The spill at Nexen’s Long Lake facility near Fort McMurray was only discovered by a contractor walking the route Wednesday afternoon.
Senior Vice President Ron Bailey says they’re investigating why the system didn’t work on a pipeline that was only installed last year, along with how the double-layered pipeline burst.
“The double wall is really designed actually more around the transportation and keeping the product warm. It’s also an additional fail-safe, and that’s what our investigation will be looking at is why we’ve ended up with a breach of both layers of the pipe.”
Bailey adds the the pipeline is modern and was only installed last year, and was supposed to have “very good” integrity equipment. Bailey has apologized on behalf of the company, saying they’re doing everything they can to find out what went wrong.
“We’re deeply concerned that this incident has happened and we need the investigation to go through its normal course to fully understand it. We’re concerned about the impact here; we’ll be looking at our operating procedures, our design procedures, just everything to try and get a root cause.”
The leak has spread over roughly 16,000 square metres but so far wildlife has not been affected, and the leak has not reached the nearby body of water. The area is so remote that it only has a winter access road, so one has had to be built to access it and vacuuming should be starting today. A road is still being constructed to the actual site of the ruptured pipeline.