Nexen Energy charged in historic oil spill
by Mark Strashok
Posted July 6, 2017
One of the largest pipeline spills in provincial history has resulted in charges against Nexen Energy.
The Alberta Energy Regulator has laid a total of five charges against the Calgary company for the 2015 Long Lake spill at their oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray.
About five million litres of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand, and water, spilled into Muskeg during the leak.
The charges relate to releasing a substance that may have caused an adverse effect and disturbance to public lands, failing to report the release as soon as possible and failing to take all reasonable measures to remediate and manage the spill.
Nexen conducted its own investigation into the pipeline rupture, concluding that the design was incompatible with the ground conditions and buckled as the temperature fluctuated.
Alberta’s top energy watchdog is charging Nexen Energy following a 2015 pipeline accident that spilled enough processed water and bitumen to fill two Olympic swimming pools.
In a Thursday statement, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) announced Nexen is facing five charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the Public Lands Act. The company is a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).
“Producing oil or gas in Alberta comes with a responsibility to follow all requirements to protect the public and environment,” said Jim Ellis, AER president and CEO, in a statement. “When we believe that the rules are not followed, we have a variety of tools, including laying charges that we can and do use in an attempt to ensure that potential offenders are held accountable.”
On July 15, 2015, a contractor at Nexen’s Long Lake facility accidently discovered the spill during a walk through the area.
Approximately 31,500 barrels of emulsion - a mixture of bitumen, processed water and sand - had spilled and covered an area of 21,900 square-metres.
The pipeline may have been leaking for up to two weeks when the spill was discovered. The safety devices designed to detect pipeline ruptures had failed to alert anyone of the breach
The spill occurred approximately 36 kilometres south of Fort McMurray and approximately 15 kilometres from Anzac and the Fort McMurray First Nation #468.
The spill is the second largest in Alberta’s history. In 2011, a Plains Midstream pipeline leaked 4.5 million litres of crude oil near the First Nation community of Little Buffalo in northwestern Alberta.
The double-lined pipeline itself was not old and had been constructed in 2014. It performed free of any major accidents until the spill was discovered.
Nexen could not be reached for comment. The company is scheduled to appear in a Fort McMurray provincial court on Aug. 16, 2017.