Canada’s Nexen Energy said on Friday its crews in northern Alberta were working “around the clock” to clean up an oil sands pipeline leak that is one of North America’s largest-ever oil-related spills on land.
The subsidiary of China’s CNOOC Ltd said it detected the spill at its Long Lake facility on Wednesday afternoon. The pipeline leaked 31,500 barrels of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, water and sand.
The spill covered 16,000 square metres and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) said the leak did not contaminate any water bodies.
Even so, the incident is another blow for the environmental record of the oil sands industry, already under fire from environmental groups for its carbon-intensive production process.
The regulator has sent investigators to Long Lake to try and determine the cause of the pipeline failure.
Environment Canada’s Enforcement Branch said it had opened a file on the incident, and was in the early stages of gathering information.
Nexen shut down the pipeline at its 72,000 barrel per day Long Lake facility, about 36 kilometres (22 miles) south east of the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, and isolated it as part of the clean up operation.
The company will hold a news conference in Calgary at 1100 a.m. MT (1700 GMT) to discuss the leak. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who on Friday finalized a Canadian energy strategy with other provincial leaders after a series of meetings this week, is also due to hold a press conference later on Friday.