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Posted: 21 Mar, 2017

Leak detection system failed to alert Husky Energy to a spill in Kananaskis Country last Thursday

A Husky operator discovered crude oil beside a pipeline route at Cox Hill Creek on Thursday. Alberta's Energy Regulator (AER) spokeswoman Monica says Husky Energy of Calgary reported the spill at Cox Hill Creek, southwestern Alberta, on Thursday around 3 p.m. Hermary said it's not known how much crude had leaked, but added the oil had affected the creek. Cox Hill Creek is about 22 kilometers west of Bragg Creek, an area popular for hiking, camping and other outdoor recreation. Hermary said the pipeline was shut and depressurized on Thursday and no more oil is flowing through that section of the pipeline.

Husky said its crews are using vacuum trucks to clean up the site. Husky spokesman Mel Duvall said the spill is in a heavily treed area and difficult terrain is hindering the speed of the cleanup. Duvall said the company’s leak detection system was operational but the spill went unnoticed until it was found by a worker. He said the investigation will uncover why its mechanical system did not flag the failure.

The company said despite having two high-profile spills in less than a year — following a massive spill on the North Saskatchewan River last summer — its rate of pipeline incidents has been steadily declining.

“We take every incident seriously and will use what we learn from this incident to further improve our operations,” Duvall said in a statement.

The latest spill follows 20 pipeline leaks and ruptures that Husky reported in Alberta last year, per a database published by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

A major spill released 149,000 liters of crude oil and processed water north of Wainwright in eastern Alberta early February 2016. Caused by a joint failure due to ground conditions, the rupture spread the oil mixture over roughly 3,800 square meters of farmland, though it didn’t affect wildlife or water, per the regulator.

Among all oil and gas producers that operate pipelines, Husky had the fourth-highest number of leaks and ruptures last year, followed by Penn West Petroleum Ltd. with 23, Cenovus Energy Inc. with 29 and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. with 67.

These incidents don’t include pipeline ruptures that occur outside Alberta, such as Husky’s spill of 225,000 liters of heavy oil mixed with diluent that flowed onto the bank of the North Saskatchewan River in Saskatchewan last July.

About 40 per cent of the spill, or 90,000 liters, reached the river, forcing the cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert and Melfort to shut their intakes from the river and find other water sources for almost two months. The cleanup cost the company $107 million.

In 2015, Husky reported 35 leaks and ruptures in Alberta — the third-highest among producers — including two major spills. The largest one, involving the release of 355,000 liters of oil emulsion in central Alberta in October 2015, was due to construction damage.

In the same month, a pipeline failure southeast of Lethbridge caused a spill of 60,000 liters of produced water.

Duvall said the creek affected by the spill is currently dry and that Husky has taken steps to ensure runoff is diverted away from the site. He said there has been no impacts on wildlife.

Carolyn Campbell, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, said she was concerned about the spill’s long-term impact, noting the energy regulator doesn’t publish data on the environmental effects of spills years after they occur. Campbell wondered why leak detection systems routinely fail to flag spills, leading to slower responses and potentially more damage.

“Crude oil can be mitigated in time by bacterial activity, but there can be long-term impacts in terms of soil contamination,” she said. “We all know that in some water environments, things persist for many years.

“We would like to see prompt and transparent reporting on those environmental impacts.”

Source: Calgary Herald and CBC News

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