Nexen Energy ordered to shut down 95 pipelines in Alberta

July 31, 2015 Nexen Energy pipeline spilled 31,449 barrels of bitumen, produced water, sand

Alberta’s energy regulator has ordered Nexen Energy to immediately cease operations of 95 pipelines in northeastern Alberta.

Nexen Energy

Nexen Energy July 15 pipeline leak of 31,449 barrels. Photo: CBC.

It issued the order late Friday due to what it calls non-compliance surrounding pipeline maintenance and monitoring in its Long Lake oilsands project.

Alberta Energy Regulator spokesman Bob Curran said every oil and gas company is required to monitor, inspect and maintain records for all of their pipelines.

Nexen Energy couldn’t demonstrate that those activities have occurred on those lines, which carry several products including crude oil, natural gas, salt water, fresh water and emulsion, Curran said.

“What we need from them now is that assurance that those lines have been properly checked and that they are in compliance with the Pipeline Act.”

Until then, the pipelines will stay shut, Curran added.

On July 15, a pipeline at Nexen’s Long Lake project about 35 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray, Alta., was found to be leaking. Nexen Energy shut it down soon after, but not before about five million litres (31,449 barrels) of a mixture of bitumen, produced water and sand spilled into muskeg.

The company, which was taken over by China’s CNOOC Ltd. in 2013, said the affected area was about 16,000 square metres along the pipeline’s route.

Curran said Nexen Energy provided the AER with a letter on Tuesday as part of the investigation into the July leak.

“When we’re investigating, we require certain information and access to certain records from the company so in this case they provided us a letter that indicated they did not have the documentation we are looking for or that the required activities did not occur,” Curran said.

Jim Ellis, president and CEO of the AER said public safety and the environment are top priorities.

“Given that this company has already had a pipeline failure at this site, the AER will not lift this suspension until Nexen can demonstrate that they can be operated safely and within all regulatory requirements,” Ellis said in a news release.

“We will accept no less than concrete evidence.”

A spokeswoman for Nexen Energy said she could not immediately comment.

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