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Cause and Volume of Pipeline Spill in Alberta Wetland Still Unknown Six Days In

A crude oil pipeline operated by Trilogy Energy Corp has released an unknown volume of oil emulsion, a mixture of oil and produced water, into surrounding marshland, according to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Trilogy employees conducting a right-of-way inspection on the pipeline, located at the company’s Kaybob Montney oil project near Fox Creek, Alberta, discovered the spill on October 6.

Both the cause and volume of the spill remain undetermined.

An Alberta Energy Regulator spokesperson told DeSmog Canada that an inspector and staff are on site to ensure “an appropriate response to the incident” but could not provide more details on the spill.

An update published on Trilogy Resource’s website Tuesday evening says the pipeline has been shut in and purged to contain the source of the leak and added, “the volume of the spill has yet to be determined.”

The company, managed by Calgary Flames co-owner Clayton Riddell, Tweet: Trilogy Energy estimates their Fox Creek #oilspill @ 3 hectares of land (120 tennis courts) http://bit.ly/2e2Cw9V #ableg #cdnpoli #Albertaestimates the spill currently covers three hectares of land, the equivalent of about 120 tennis courts, in a remote area. 

In 2011 a spill from a pipeline operated by Plains Midstream contaminated just over three hectares of beaver habitat and muskeg in a remote area near Little Buffalo, territory of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, after releasing 28,000 barrels of oil, almost 4.5 million litres, into the environment. It is considered one of the largest oil spills in Alberta's history.

According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, the Trilogy Energy spill location made the incident difficult to respond to.

“It’s tough to access. It’s really densely vegetated. The past few days have been spent creating an access to the impacted area so the crews can begin the deliniation [sic] and remediation work,” a spokesperson for the regulator told the Edmonton Journal.

“Trilogy has developed a diversion plan that will minimize the infiltration of surface water and prevent further disbursement of oil,” the update from the company reads.

“Environmental specialists, wildlife experts and crews are on site assessing the situation, working closely with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).”

“Sampling and monitoring, recovery, waste management and wildlife and water control plans have been developed and are pending AER approval.”

The statement adds the company is collecting water and soil samples and that wetland and environmental assessments are ongoing. The company says efforts are in place to monitor and deter wildlife from entering the spill zone.

According to research conducted by the Florida State University, oil companies consistently underreport oil spill volumes, especially in instances of small spills and in remote areas.

In July, Husky Energy drew criticism for failing to properly report a pipeline spill that contaminated the North Saskatchewan River, a major source of drinking water.

An incident report on the Alberta Energy Regulator's website claims “there have been no reported impacts to wildlife” from the Trilogy pipeline release, although a spokesperson told the Edmonton Journal that response crews found two dead birds at the spill site as well as impacted beaver lodges.

A request for comment from Trilogy Resources went unanswered by time of publication.

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Thanks for being an avid reader of our in-depth journalism, which is read by millions and made possible thanks to more than 4,200 readers just like you.

The Narwhal's growing team is hitting the ground running in 2022 to tell stories about the natural world that go beyond doom-and-gloom headlines — and we need your support.

Our model of independent, non-profit journalism means we can pour resources into doing the kind of environmental reporting you won’t find anywhere else in Canada, from investigations that hold elected officials accountable to deep dives showcasing the real people enacting real climate solutions.

There’s no advertising or paywall on our website (we believe our stories should be free for all to read), which means we count on our readers to give whatever they can afford each month to keep The Narwhal’s lights on.

The amazing thing? Our faith is being rewarded. We hired seven new staff over the past year and won a boatload of awards for our features, our photography and our investigative reporting.

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