CANADA: Blowouts, spills spike in Alberta oilpatch

Alberta's oilpatch recorded a dramatic increase in blowouts and spills last year, including a pipeline rupture worse than the spill caused by CN Rail's highly publicized 2005derailment near Wabamun Lake.

The Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) says there were 45 incidents of uncontrollable emission of oil or gas in 2006, more than double the norm of about 20 annually and 30 per cent more than there were in 2005.

"It's something that we're looking at very closely," said EUB spokesman Darin Barter. "If there are areas of weakness in our regulations we need to determine that. Or is it an anomaly? That's what we're assessing now. We're very concerned about that number."

There were also nearly 100 more spills in 2006 than the previous year, including a massive crude oil spill near Slave Lake that was originally reported as being about 1,260 barrels or 200,000 litres.

But an EUB investigation report filed last spring revealed the spill was actually 1.3 million litres of oil.

CN's spill at Wabamun has been estimated at about 800,000 litres. Barter said the oilpatch regulator was not deliberately trying to downplay the size of the spill.

"When an incident occurs like that, it's difficult to get a sense of scale until it's explored and contained," he said.

Barter said the spike in blowouts and spills could be as a result of what he called "a dramatic rise in industry activity."

He noted that so far this year there haven't been any blowouts.
But oilpatch critics expressed concern about the rising numbers of spills and blowouts, warning that the trend, if it continues, could lead to disaster. Twelve of the 45 blowouts involved sour gas wells containing deadly hydrogen sulphide.

Via: Edmonton Journal
by Darcy Henton