Third major oil spill in a week: Shell pipeline breaks in Texas

Thousands of gallons of oil have spilled from a pipeline in Texas, the third accident of its kind in only a week.

Shell Pipeline, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, shut down their West Columbia, Texas, pipeline last Friday after electronic calculations conducted by the US National Response Center showed that upwards of 700 barrels had been lost, amounting to almost 30,000 gallons of crude oil.

By Monday, Shell spokespeople said inspectors found “no evidence” of an oil leak, but days later it was revealed that a breach did occur. Representatives with the US Coast Guard confirmed to Dow Jones on Thursday that roughly 50 barrels of oil spilled from a pipe near Houston, Texas and entered a waterway that connects to the Gulf of Mexico.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Steven Lehman said that Shell had dispatched clean-up crews that were working hard to correct any damage to Vince Bayou, a small waterway that runs for less than 20 miles from the Houston area into a shipping channel that opens into the Gulf.

The spill was contained, said Lehman, who was hesitant to offer an official number on how much crude was lost in the accident. According to Shell spokeswoman Kim Windon, though, the damage could have been quite significant. After being presented with the estimate that said as much as 700 barrels were found to have leaked from the pipeline due to an unknown cause, investigators determined that 60 barrels entered the bayou.

“That’s a very early estimate–things can change,” Officer Lehman told Dow Jones.

Meanwhile, though, rescue works in Arkansas have been getting their hands dirty responding to an emergency there. A rupture in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline late last week send thousands of barrels of oil into the small town of Mayflower, around 25 miles outside of Little Rock. Authorities evacuated more than 20 homes in response, and by this Thursday roughly 19,000 barrels had been recovered.

Another incident in Canada this week caused an estimated 400 barrels — or roughly 16,800 gallons — of oil to be compromised in northern Ontario when a train derailed. Originally, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd said only four barrels were lost in the accident.

Suncor spill on March 24 not reported until April 11

Jennifer Moreau
Suncor is cleaning up a spill at its Port Moody plant, on the Burnaby border, where a small amount of material has seeped into the Burrard Inlet.

Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal said the spill was discovered at about 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 6. Approximately 225 barrels of a soybean-based biodegradable product leaked on Suncor’s property. A small amount reached the water, possibly two litres, but Seetal wasn’t able to confirm the amount. The product is used as a blending agent in biofuels. Seetal said that, according to the product’s material safety data sheet, it’s not classified as environmentally hazardous.

“Any time there’s a product that’s not intended for release, we’re not happy about it. It’s unacceptable,” Seetal said.

Suncor has a blending and holding facility in Port Moody, right on the border with Burnaby, overlooking the Burrard Inlet. Seetal said the company alerted the B.C. Environment Ministry and Environment Canada and called on Western Canada Marine Response Corporation to help with the clean-up efforts.

Seetal said the company contained the leak, isolated the tank, drained the tank, and dug a ditch around it to contain the material. They also blocked the stormwater sewer to stop any leakage into the Burrard Inlet. Booms and absorbent pads were also deployed, Seetal added.

When asked why Suncor didn’t alert the public or the media, Seetal said the company did follow its response plan.

“But absolutely, we will be undergoing a thorough investigation of the incident, and that would involve notification,” she added.

She also indicated the exact cause of the leak was undergoing investigation, too.

Local MP Kennedy Stewart alerted media about the spill.

He said he first heard the news after some of his constituents called him, having heard there was some kind of spill and wondering why they couldn’t find any information about it online, nor any news stories. Stewart raised concerns that Suncor didn’t alert the public.

“I was thinking in this circumstance, they would issue a media advisory, but none of that happened,” he said.

“I’d like to hear more details, but it does appear the spill happened on Saturday, and there was nothing available to the public for quite a few days, so that’s not a good thing. It just shows you what happens when you live in a municipality with a lot of petro-chemical facilities,” he said. “The Conservatives just said we have this world-class marine response, and people don’t hear about this in their own backyard for days. Perhaps not world-class yet.”

According to the City of Port Moody, based on information they say came from the Environment Ministry, the spill actually happened earlier, sometime between March 24 and 27, but it was discovered on April 6.

That’s when Suncor observed a sheen on the water in the Burrard Inlet. Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, which handles oil spill cleanup on the West Coast, was on the scene that evening, and “the material was deemed to be non-recoverable,” according to the Environment Ministry briefing.

“Initial estimates have indicated that approximately two litres of R100 (the material in question) made it to the marine environment, i.e., Burrard Inlet, through the oil-water separator, which discharges through company stormwater infrastructure and a Port Metro Vancouver outfall,” the briefing states.

SNC Lavalin will assess if there is contamination onsite, the degree of migration, and what actions are required to remedy the situation. According to the briefing, the Environment Ministry “has advised Suncor that the inspection has transitioned into an investigation,” and Suncor is complying.

According to the City of Port Moody, the Environment Ministry called a meeting for Thursday, April 11, and invited federal and provincial agencies, First Nations, Metro Vancouver and neighbouring municipalities, including the City of Burnaby.

Meanwhile, Suncor is still cleaning up the land-based part of the spill.

Western Canada Marine Response did not return calls.

Alan Dutton, a member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, said Suncor should have reported the spill to the public.

“If the public will have any trust in a pipeline company, in the oil industry in general or in tank farms, we have to make sure incidents are reported publicly in a timely manner,” he said. “It’s incumbent on the oil and gas industry to make sure they are open with the public.”

The NOW requested the material safety data sheet for R100, the spilled chemical, but Suncor was not able to provide it by press time.

Material safety data sheets contain information on any potential hazards for chemical products.

For more, visit Jennifer Moreau’s blog at
© Copyright (c) Burnaby Now

Original source article: UPDATE: Suncor cleaning up spill close to Burnaby border

Analysis: Spills flame Canadian oil debate, but won’t curb flows to U.S

Jeffrey Jones
(Reuters) – Two high-profile oil spills won’t stem the now-record flow of Canadian oil into the United States, despite the frenzy that the spills triggered among friends and foes of the Keystone XL pipeline to the main U.S. refineries.

The fate of Keystone remains undecided, yet Canadian crude will become an increasing part of the U.S. energy mix, despite growing competition from new U.S. production.

U.S. thirst for Canadian crude has shot up nearly 30 percent over the past five years as refiners opt to buy from the north instead of bringing in more expensive OPEC oil, thanks to a boom in production from the vast Alberta oil sands.

Midwest refiners have invested billions of dollars to tweak plants to take more of the heavy crude from the region, and a small but growing network of rail routes have sprouted up to augment existing pipelines.

So even as environmentalists seized on oil spills last week in Arkansas and Minnesota to warn about the impact of expansion in the tar sands — the world’s third-largest crude deposit — it appears only a crash in the price of oil or unexpected regulation will derail the growing energy interdependence.

“Short-term, this is not good for producers, it’s not good for Canadian oil going south, it’s not good for Keystone,” John Stephenson, vice-president and portfolio manager at First Asset Investment Management in Toronto said of the two spills.

“But I think the reality is this oil is going to make it south of the border, quite likely by rail or one of the other pipelines across the Canadian-U.S. border, so I see it as a short-term hiccup at worst.”

Canada’s black gold has allowed the Obama administration to crow about dwindling reliance on oil from less-friendly suppliers in the Middle East and elsewhere. In addition, a glut of the Canadian heavy oil has tempered higher gasoline prices, especially in the U.S. Midwest.

That may trump increasingly bad PR for Canada’s oil, much of which is produced by energy- and carbon-intensive methods such as mining or steaming, making it a prime target in the battle over policies to fight global warming.

Yet the growing role of Canadian crude in the U.S. economy cannot be denied. Overall U.S. oil imports fell to 8.5 million barrels a day last year from over 10 million in 2007, but supplies from Canada jumped to 2.4 million barrels a day, from just under 1.9 million, over the period, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That puts Canadian crude at nearly 29 percent of foreign supplies in the United States, despite the remarkable increase in U.S. domestic light oil output from regions such as the North Dakota Bakken that has fueled predictions of North American energy self-sufficiency in 15 years.

In fact, the two types of crude compete little for refinery space, as Canada’s heavy crude is being directed at U.S. Gulf Coast plants that are configured to process heavy oil, which now arrives in dwindling volumes from Venezuela and Mexico.

“If that’s the case, then Obama’s left with not an energy choice — he’s left with a geopolitical choice,” said Michal Moore, director of energy and environmental policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a former California energy regulator.

“Do you want to piss off Canada by not letting oil into the refineries that can handle it most easily? I don’t know how he makes that judgment but I will say that this doesn’t help.”

Other refiners have also invested to process more feedstock from Canada, with BP sinking $4 billion into its Whiting, Indiana plant to take more of the heavy, sour oil.

In addition to heavy tar sands oil, Canada also exports large volumes of conventional lighter crude.

In January, the U.S. imported over 1.5 million bpd of heavy Canadian crude, defined by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers as having an API Gravity of less than 27 degrees, and nearly 1.15 million bpd of lighter, easier to refine oil, according to the EIA.


Last week’s spills both involved oil from Canada.

On Friday, Exxon Mobil Corp’s aging Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Arkansas, forcing a cleanup of thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian oil that leaked into a suburban neighborhood.

The incident followed an oil spill in rural Minnesota on Wednesday after a Canadian Pacific Ltd train derailed. The tanker-car leaked several hundred barrels of Alberta crude and reignited concern about oil moving by train as pipeline capacity lags production growth.

Producers shipped about 45,000 barrels of Canadian oil into the United States by train last year, up from almost nothing just five years earlier, based on Reuters calculations of data from Canada’s National Energy Board. Current shipments could be as much as 150,000 barrels a day, estimated Steven Paget, analyst at FirstEnergy Capital Corp.

The spills are the latest in a string of problems for shippers of Canadian crude that have inflamed the debate over the oil sands. The largest spill was the Enbridge Inc line break in Michigan in 2010, which sent more than 20,000 barrels of Canadian oil into the Kalamazoo River system.

U.S. regulators last month ordered Enbridge’s U.S. affiliate to do more cleanup at the site, pushing the bill to near $1 billion.

TransCanada Corp, backer of the long-delayed $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline to Texas refineries from Alberta, and the line’s supporters, say oil spills highlight the need for safer energy infrastructure rather than a shift from pipelines.

“I don’t think it will have an impact (on Canadian exports and the approval of pipelines). Look, it’s being seized on by those who oppose hydrocarbon development, but if you follow their logic to its conclusion, what they’re saying, I guess, is they don’t want to see any pipelines built,” Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said of the Arkansas spill.

“It’s not because of Canadian crude that there was a spill. It was an old pipeline, more than 60 years old.”

Oliver has led Ottawa’s intense lobbying campaign in favor of the 830,000 barrel a day Keystone XL project, which will take Canadian crude to Gulf refineries. Washington is set to decide on the line this summer and it could be in service in 2015.


All predictions are for a steady climb in Canadian production, explaining the industry and government’s quest for new markets in the United States and non-traditional areas such as Asia, one of the biggest drivers engines of world oil demand growth.

Canada’s National Energy Board has predicted output will average 3.6 million barrels a day this year, up 12.5 percent from 2012, putting it nearly 400,000 barrels a day ahead of No. 2 OPEC producer Iraq’s current output.

The industry sees a jump in output to 4.7 million barrels a day by the end of the decade, with new pipelines such as Enbridge’s contentious Northern Gateway to Canada’s Pacific Coast and TransCanada’s Energy East line to the Atlantic provinces planned to move much of the increase.

Last week, Wood Mackenzie, the energy research firm, predicted output of bitumen from the oil sands, will increase by 540,000 barrels a day over the next two years.

Almost three-quarters of that will come from projects that have already been approved and have a break-even oil price below $60 a barrel, WoodMac said. The current price for Canadian heavy oil is about $80 a barrel.

(Additional reporting by Scott Haggett in Calgary and Patrick Rucker in Washington; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Matthew Robinson and Leslie Gevirtz)

12,000 barrels of oil recovered in Arkansas pipeline spill

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Exxon Mobil Corp. says crews have recovered about 12,000 barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas, after the company’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured Friday afternoon.

The pipeline carries Canadian heavy crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast.

A company statement released Sunday afternoon said crews were steam-cleaning oil from property, and that 22 homes are still in the process of being evacuated.

Fifteen vaccum trucks and 33 storage tanks have been deployed to the spill area.

The company said the 51-centimetre pipeline had been shut down as crews tried to prevent the spilled oil from reaching a nearby lake.

Exxon said no oil had reached Lake Conway, known as a fishing lake stocked with bass, catfish and bream. The company said it deployed about 2,000 metres of boom near the lake “as a precaution.”

It said cleanup operations were being co-ordinated with the Department of Emergency Management and other local authorities, and that the cause of the spill was being investigated.

Authorities from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are on site and have categorized it as a “major spill,” meaning that it’s greater than 250 barrels. The cause of the spill is now under investigation.

On Monday federal regulators proposed that Exxon Mobil pay $1.7 million in civil penalties for safety violations linked to a pipeline rupture that spilled an estimated 238,000 litres of crude oil into Montana’s scenic Yellowstone River in July 2011.

The spill fouled approximately 110 kilometres of the Yellowstone River’s banks, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a massive, months-long cleanup.

The latest spill comes at time when proponents of the proposed Keystone X-L pipeline have been trying to convince Washington to give the seven billion dollar project the green light.

Opponents of TransCanada Corp.’s plan to pipe Alberta oilsands bitumen to the U.S. Gulf Coast denounce it as an environmental catastrophe in the making.

© The Canadian Press, 2013

Exxon cleans up Arkansas oil spill amid debate over Canada-to-US pipelines

Ruptured pipeline in Arkansas is second incident in a week and comes as US debates controversial Keystone XL project

Exxon Mobil was working to clean up thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas, after a pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude ruptured, a major spill likely to stoke debate over transporting Canada’s oil to the United States.

Exxon shut the Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, after the leak was discovered on Friday afternoon, the company said in a statement.

Exxon, hit with a $1.7m fine by regulators last week over a 2011 spill in the Yellowstone River, said a few thousand barrels of oil had been observed.

A company spokesman confirmed the line was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude. That grade is a heavy bitumen crude diluted with lighter liquids to allow it to flow through pipelines, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (Cepa), which referred to Wabasca as “oil sands” in a report.

The spill occurred as the US State Department is considering the fate of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast.

Environmentalists, concerned about the impact of developing the oil sands, have sought to block its approval. Supporters say Keystone will help bring down the cost of fuel in the United States.

The Arkansas spill was the second incident this week where Canadian crude has spilled in the United States. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

Exxon expanded the Pegasus pipeline in 2009 to carry more Canadian crude from the mid-west to the Gulf Coast refining hub and installed what it called new “leak detection technology”.

Exxon said federal, state and local officials were on site and the company said it was staging a response for a spill of more than 10,000 barrels “to be conservative”. Clean-up crews had recovered approximately 4,500 barrels of oil and water.

“The air quality does not likely present a human health risk, with the exception of the high pooling areas, where clean-up crews are working with safety equipment,” Exxon said in a statement.

US media said the spill was in a subdivision. Mayflower city police said the oil had not reached Lake Conway nearby.

The US Environmental Protection Agency categorized the rupture as a “major spill”, Exxon said, and 22 homes were evacuated following the incident.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation confirmed that an inspector from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had been sent to the scene to determine what caused the failure. The Environmental Protection Agency is the federal on-scene coordinator for the spill.

Some environmentalists argue that oil sands crudes are more corrosive than conventional oil, although a CEPA report, put together by oil and gas consultancy Penspen, argued diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than other heavy crude.

The US Department of Transportation earlier this week proposed a fine of $1.7m for Exxon over pipeline safety violations relating to a 2011 oil spill in the Yellowstone River. Exxon’s Silvertip pipeline, which carries 40,000 barrels per day of crude in Montana, leaked about 1,500 barrels of oil into the river in July 2011 after heavy flooding in the area.

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker struck a reef in Prince William Sound off Alaska and spilled 250,000 barrels of crude oil.

U.S. orders Enbridge to dredge Kalamazoo River after huge oil spill two years ago

More than two and a half years after a pipeline rupture spilled heavy oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) to dredge the river to remove submerged oil.

The agency says it has repeatedly found oil in sections of the river, and it wants that crude removed before it flows downstream to areas where it will be more difficult or even impossible to clean up.

The agency is also ordering Enbridge — proponent of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline through northern British Columbia — to maintain sediment traps throughout the river to capture oil outside the dredge areas.

EPA documents note that Enbridge challenged the agency’s science, and the need to either contain or recover the remaining oil.

The July 2010 spill near Marshall, Michigan, has dogged the company as it proceeds through a federal review of the Northern Gateway to deliver oil sands products to a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C.

The ability to clean-up diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands has been raised at the hearings by project opponents.

© Copyright (c)

From ‘Dumb to Dumber’ — More Oil Spill Risk and Less Coastguard


More Oil Spill Risk and Less Coastguard Means Moving From ‘Dumb to Dumber’

MEDIA CONTACT: Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director, ForestEthics Advocacy, 604-710-5340

VANCOUVER — Yesterday, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was abruptly shut down. Vancouver residents have repeatedly voiced their concerns about this proposal since it was first announced by the Harper Government, but no date for the closure had been announced.

“With Kinder Morgan’s proposal to massively expand exports of diluted bitumen through Vancouver’s already bustling harbour, this is an irresponsible move,” said Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director with ForestEthics Advocacy. “It was already really dumb for Prime Minister Harper to consider turning Vancouver’s harbour into an export terminal for dangerous tar sands oil, but to simultaneously close Vancouver’s Coast Guard station is a move from dumb to dumber.”

The Vancouver Coast Guard was called on over 300 times a year to respond to emergencies and has saved hundreds of lives. Kinder Morgan’s proposal would increase traffic from the current 80 tankers a year to over 400 tankers should it be approved. Each one of these tankers would carry three times as much oil as was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

“When it comes to oil exports, more oil means more risk. It’s not a matter of if there will be an accident, it’s a matter of when and how prepared we will be to protect human health and our precious coast,” said West.

The Vancouver Harbour is currently the only location that tar sands oil is being exported via oil tankers. This practice has already increased from approximately 20 tankers a year to the current level of approximately 80 tankers a year in the time since Kinder Morgan bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005. Before Kinder Morgan bought the pipeline it was primarily used for local oil consumption.

“Accidents happen all the time, that’s why we have a coast guard. The closure of Vancouver’s coast guard station means we will be even less prepared to respond. The station should be reopened immediately and the proposal to bring more tar sands oil spill risk to Vancouver’s harbour should never be allowed to see the light of day,” said West. “Lives are at stake here, we need to be smarter and safer, not dumb and dumber.”

Sven Biggs | c: 778-882-8354