August 28, 2015 9:41 pm
Updated: August 29, 2015 8:06 pm

Nexen responds to regulator’s order to suspend operations at 95 Alberta pipelines


WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Energy Regulator has ordered the suspension of 15 Nexen pipeline licenses, meaning operations on 95 pipelines have been suspended. Lisa Wolansky reports.

CALGARY  – The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has ordered Nexen Energy to suspend operations at 95 pipelines in northern Alberta.  AER said Friday the shut in is because of “noncompliant activities at Long Lake oilsands operations” to do with pipeline maintenance and monitoring.

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A spill of about five million litres of bitumen, sand and produced water was discovered near Nexen’s Long Lake oilsands facility, about 35 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray in late June. The break occurred just over a kilometre from the Long Lake plant. Nexen “sincerely apologized” for the impact it caused and is investigating along with AER.

READ MORE: ‘We sincerely apologize’ – Nexen’s ‘failsafe’ system didn’t detect massive northern Alberta pipeline spill

AER spokesperson Bob Curran told Global News the regulator received a letter during the course of its investigation into the spill that “indicated Nexen was noncompliant.” He said that letter was received Aug. 25.

“Noncompliance could mean things like not being able to demonstrate they’ve been adequately monitoring or inspecting lines, things they’re required to do under the Pipeline Act or Pipeline Rules,” said Curran.

The suspension involves 15 pipeline licences, which requires the shut in of 95 pipelines carrying natural gas, crude oil, salt water, fresh water and emulsion. Curran said the suspension will be in effect until Nexen can “provide us with assurance that those lines can be operated safely.”

In a media release issued Saturday, Nexen said it performed an audit of its corporate pipeline integrity management system in early July, which identified “a number of non-compliances, primarily related to documentation of maintenance activities.”

Nexen said it disclosed the audit findings, along with an action plan, to the AER on Tuesday, August 25.

“As stated in our self-disclosure to the AER, Nexen considers regulatory compliance to be of the utmost importance in our operations, and we are committed to continuous improvement, regulatory compliance and cooperation with the AER,” the media release read.

“Our top priority is the safety of our employees, the public and the environment. We are preparing to comply with the AER’s order as we work to compile the necessary information and documentation.”

READ MORE: What is bitumen emulsion?

Curran said AER response could range from no enforcement action to prosecution. He didn’t know how long the investigation might take.

The AER investigation into Nexen’s Long Lake pipeline incident is continuing and once the investigation is complete, the AER said it will publish the findings.

READ MORE: Crude Awakening: 37 years of oil spills in Alberta 

GALLERY: Aerial photos of the Nexen spill site

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Friday, August 28, 2015. It was updated on Saturday to include comment from Nexen.

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