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Husky fined $3.8m for 2016 oil spill

17 June 2019

Husky Energy has agreed to pay a $3.8m fine for an oil spill in July 2016 that saw a pipeline leak 225,000 litres of oil and chemicals into the North Saskatchewan River. The leak was discovered on a pipeline operated by Husky Oil Operations, a subsidiary of Husky Energy, whch harmed local wildlife and forced the closure of several communities' water supply systems for almost two months.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

On June 12, Husky pleaded guilty to three environmental charges for the spill which harmed fish and wildlife. Duane Ray, Husky’s vice-president of pipelines, said: “We’ve been working hard since that day to try to set things right”. 

In court, the leak was blamed on ground movement which increased pressure on the pipeline and caused it to buckle and leak. The leak detection alarms weren’t capable of signalling the cause or exact location of the broken pipe which meant response was delayed.

At the time, Husky was criticised for its slow response to the spill, having shut the pipeline down 10 hours after leak-detection systems indicated pressure anomalies. However, Provincial court Judge Lorna Dyck noted that alarms had gone off but were not reported to senior staff. “Once the leak was discovered, Husky acted quickly and properly,” said Dyck. “I believe Husky has learned from this mistake.”

The court determined that, although built to industry standards, the pipeline was not made to consider thermal pressure caused by the moving ground. Lawyers representing Husky said in court that the company would implement a new policy of shutting down pipelines if an alarm’s location isn’t determined within 30 minutes.

Since the incident, Husky has spent over $140 million on the clean-up, but in a victim impact statement filed in court, three indigenous communities said the clean-up wasn’t good enough. Birds, wildlife and fish are still suffering from the effects of the spill and members of the First Nations have lost use of their traditional lands. 

The pipeline was allowed to reopen in October 2016 after repairs were inspected and approved. The section of pipeline now includes more monitoring equipment that measures ground movement, as well as thicker and higher grades of steel pipe. Fibre optic cables to detect pipeline and ground movement also help make it clear when a spill has happened.

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