1,000 barrel oil spill cleanup underway at remote northern Alberta pipeline

An oil spill north of Red Earth Creek, Alta. Supplied

A pipeline in a remote part of northwestern Alberta is in shut down after 1,000 barrels of a mix of crude oil and produced water spilled from break points in the line earlier this month.

The first reported spill happened on July 7, when Predator Oil Ltd. notified the Alberta Energy Regulator that a pipeline located about 70 to 90 kilometres northeast of the hamlet of Red Earth Creek had failed.

READ MORE: AER reports leak of over 100,000 litres of oil and water in southern Alberta, down from initial estimate of 250,000 litres

The AER said 150 cubic metres — or 943 barrels — of emulsion was released from the pipeline, affecting an area of wetlands about 142 metres by 142 metres.

More leaks were reported in the following days to the AER: Two leaks of 31 and 94 barrels of oil (five and 15 cubic metres, respectively) on July 13, and the next day two smaller leaks of six and 25 barrels of oil (one and four cubic metres, respectively.) Both leaks were related to the first one, AER said.

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On Friday, July 13 the AER issued an Environmental Protection Order to Predator, forcing the pipeline to be shut down until all safety and environmental requirements are met.

In the Environmental Protection Order report, the AER said while the environmentally-damaging oil mixture had spilled at a pipeline site, the fluid had spread to nearby wetlands. However, no rivers or streams appeared to be impacted.

READ MORE: Five charges laid against Nexen for massive July 2015 Long Lake pipeline spill

The report said AER inspectors observed dead vegetation at the site from aerial photos provided by Predator, which was confirmed by the inspectors during a site inspection on July 11.

The fluid in the pipeline was about 25 to 30 per cent oil mixed with produced water, which is wastewater generated during the production of oil and natural gas and is sometimes salty.

The pipeline has been shut-in, but the break points are in very remote locations so temporary roads made of rig mat are being constructed to gain access to the site. The AER said rig matting is used to protect the ground from damage caused by vehicles and equipment, and wildlife fencing has been installed.

Predator Oil said it gained access to the site on Monday, and began cleaning up the spill. As of noon Wendnesday, Predator said there were still no known impacts to wildlife or water bodies.

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Red Earth Creek is about 400 kilometres north of Edmonton in the Peace River region.

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