Nexen Energy via CBC News
Nexen Energy's Long Lake oilsands facility south of Fort McMurray, where 31,500 barrels of oil spilled from a leaky pipeline.

Oil Sands Spill in Alberta Is One of Biggest in Canada’s History


A 1.3-million-gallon spill of emulsion—a mixture of bitumen, water and sand—south of Fort McMurray in the Alberta oil sands of Canada is one of the largest the country has ever seen, regulators admitted on Thursday July 16.

Discovered on July 15, it let loose five million liters over 16,000 square meters, or 3.95 acres, from a pipeline owned by Nexen Energy at the company's Long Lake oil sands facility. Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) spokesman Peter Murchland said on Thursday the spill has been contained and that cleanup is under way.

"My understanding is that the pipeline and pad site had been isolated and shut-in earlier today, effectively stopping the source of the release," said Murchland, Alberta Energy Regulator’s public affairs manager, to CBC News. "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."

Nexen said in a statement that the spill was mostly within the pipeline corridor.

“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. “There were no injuries due to this incident and the pipeline has been isolated. Nexen continues to investigate.”

The company told the AER that “the release is mainly isolated to the pipeline right of way which includes muskeg,” the regulatory agency said in a statement. “The release has not flowed into a waterbody. There are no reported impacts to the public or wildlife at this time, and the AER has directed the operator to implement a wildlife protection plan in the area.”

This spill is larger than the 4.5-million-liter one (1.2 million gallons) that contaminated traditional Lubicon Cree territory in Little Buffalo First Nation in 2011. The 28,000-barrel spill sickened students at the community’s elementary school, forcing its temporary closure.

RELATED: Alberta Oil Spill Fumes Sicken Little Buffalo Students

Decades of development in the Alberta oil sands have taken their toll on the environment and on indigenous communities, as Lubicon Cree citizen and Greenpeace volunteer Melina Laboucan-Massimo detailed in a 2011 video.

RELATED: Lubicon Cree Member Details Alberta Oil Sands Pollution

Pipeline spills are but one of the potential damages that concern First Nations, environmentalists and the scientific community alike. Researchers are urging a halt to new oil sands development to avoid catastrophic global warming.

RELATED: Leave Tar Sands Oil in Ground: 110 Scientists Invoke First Nation Treaty Rights

Leave It in the Ground: Scientists’ 10 Reasons for a Tar Sands Moratorium

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



raininmyshoes's picture
Submitted by raininmyshoes on
I just look at the destructive mess and wonder how could a human being do this? How could a reasonable person with a rational mind call that energy? This once pristine landscape is the most tragic reality of an alien being whose appetite and diet is destructive, completely. No life has existed on the earth, nor I doubt given birth by the earth,with such a vociferous and rapacious lust to devour so much life. It just makes me wonder how the human beings could not corral that beast into some sort of safe place of holding. There have been so many cages and laboratories to capture life in; there is a more urgent and critical need to collect, capture, and contain the beast feeding on life and devouring it with such rapid expansive ferocity. Hopefully some genius doing their calculus can engineer a containment collector large enough to hold the beast securely within for a very long time. It is an unreality that such a beastly thing is allowed to do such cruel violence and somehow be called a company? Massive insanity that is so blind to not think or feel, may they have these sickened spaces as their new homelands. The emptiness and cruelty can be their comfort and the knowing that they are safely on top of and surrounded by energy, tar sand homes and villages for dying lies - not to be bothered by life.