Canadian Pipeline Spills Crude Oil into Major River

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Common Dreams

Canadian Pipeline Spills Crude Oil into Major River

Heavy rains exacerbating spill

by
Common Dreams staff

Alberta's Red Deer River pictured June 8, 2012 after an oil spill. (Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail)

Oil company Plains Midstream Canada has announced that a large oil spill has erupted from its Plains' Rangeland Pipeline operations in West-Central Alberta. The company estimates up to 3,000 barrels of 'sour crude' oil has leaked into a large river system surrounded by 'pristine wilderness'. The spill is the second in 13 months from Plains Midstream, who has now halted operations as emergency crews attempt to clean up the spill.

"It has entered the Red Deer River and (the river) is at very high flow volume," Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Bob Curran said.

Heavy rain this month is exacerbating the spread of the spill, as the river is moving very quickly at the moment, CTV reports today. Surrounding towns are currently announcing flood warnings, as the oil heads down stream towards Alberta's third-largest city Red Deer.

Plains Midstream is still in the process of cleaning up last year's 28,000 barrel spill in northern Alberta. The crude spilled near a native community in late April last year.

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The Globe and Mail/CA: Alberta's Red Deer River hit by oil leak

A large amount of oil has spilled from an Alberta pipeline into a creek, with an early estimate of 1,000 to 3,000 barrels leaking from the tributary and now flowing into the Red Deer River, one of the province's most important waterways.

Plains Midstream Canada said it was notified about the leak near Sundre, Alta. Thursday night. The leak is 160,000 to 475,000 litres in size, which was released into Jackson Creek. The company is dispatching aircraft to survey the damage, which local residents expect to be significant, with the Red Deer River currently flooding.

"I would expect that the vast majority of it will end up in the Red Deer River," said Bruce Beattie, reeve of Mountain View County. "It's a major concern."

Following heavy rainfall in Alberta over recent days, the Red Deer River is flowing fast and wide, a fact that stands to exacerbate the effects of the spill.

Jackson Creek is located north, and downstream, of Sundre. The spill, however, is upstream of Red Deer, Alberta's third-largest city, which is some 75 kilometres away.

With the Red Deer in "in significant flood, it won't take long to be down the river for sure," said Mr. Beattie.

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Reuters: Plains shuts Alberta oil pipeline after leak

Plains Midstream Canada said on Friday it halted pipeline operations in West-Central Alberta after crude leaked into a large river system as the company continues to clean up from its last major spill in the province about 13 months ago.

Plains Midstream, a unit of Houston-based Plains All American, said it estimates that 1,000-3,000 barrels of light, sour crude - oil that is high in sulfur content - leaked into a tributary of the Red Deer River, a waterway that meanders across the south-central part of Alberta.

Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board identified the pipeline as Plains' Rangeland Pipeline, an 83,000 barrel a day system that consists of 1,225 km (761 miles) of gathering and trunk lines. The ERCB is investigating the incident but said details are still sketchy.

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Canadian Press: Oil spill in Red Deer, Alta., threatens pristine wilderness

The area around Sundre is considered pristine wilderness by many in Alberta. It's a common getaway area for people in Calgary and popular with anglers and hunters.

Recent heavy rains have swollen rivers in the area, some to near flood stage, and local officials are concerned the oil will spread more quickly down the system.

There was no immediate word on whether the spill will threaten the quality of drinking water downstream.

Plains Midstream said it was light sour crude that spilled. It said Alberta energy regulators and government health and environment officials are monitoring water and air quality in the area.

"Light sour crude oil has a strong petroleum odour but this odour does not pose a health or safety risk to the public," the company said in a news release.

The company did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The spill comes as Plains Midstream continues to clean up an April 29, 2011, pipeline spill of 4.5 million litres of oil northeast of Peace River, Alta.

That leak - one of the largest in Alberta history - happened in a remote area on the 772-kilometre, 44-year-old line between Zama, Alta., and Edmonton.

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