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Canada pipeline cleared for repairs after serious 2016 oil spill

24 July 2017

On July 21, Husky Energy said it had been granted permission to repair a section of pipeline that leaked 225,000 litres of crude in Saskatchewan in July 2016. At least 200,000 litres of oil and chemicals leaked into the North Saskatchewan River after the incident, resulting in the closure of the water supply systems of several downriver communities for almost two months.

Stock image
Stock image

Husky was criticised for its slow response to the spill, only shutting down the pipeline 10 hours after leak-detection systems indicated pressure anomalies.

Husky CEO Robert Peabody said that the company would be applying lessons learned from the spill on the rebuild. He said the leak detection systems had worked but had not given unambiguous message. The company now plans to include more monitoring equipment that will measure ground movement, as well as add thicker and higher grades of steel pipe to the repaired section.

The planned extra equipment for the section, including fibre optic cables to detect pipeline and ground movement, will help make it clear when a spill has happened. Regulators will assess the new leak prevention systems before allowing the pipeline to reopen.

Husky’s investigation determined the pipeline buckled because of ground movement. The company said it accepted full responsibility, had spent C$107 million on cleanup operations, and was using what it had learned from the incident to improve operations.

Meanwhile, a Saskatchewan First Nation’s lawsuit lays part of the blame for the Husky Energy pipeline spill on the provincial government’s failure to prevent it from happening. The suit lodged by the James Smith Cree Nation claims that had a series of pipeline safety recommendations handed down five years ago been implemented, the leak might not have happened.

Saskatchewan provincial auditor Judy Ferguson also concluded last month that the Ministry of Energy and Resources had implemented only four of seven recommendations put forward in 2012 and designed to bring it into compliance with the law, and was “not doing enough” to effectively regulate pipelines.

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