Pipeline spills about 400,000 litres, some enters North Saskatchewan River

Contaminated water that leaked from an oilfield pipeline on Christmas Day has entered the North Saskatchewan River but has had no detectable impact on it, says a spokesman for Calgary-based oil and gas producer ARC Resources Ltd.

The spill was reported by a local landowner at about 2 p.m. last Friday, said Sean Calder, ARC’s vice-president of production, in an interview on Tuesday.

“We had guys on site within about an hour and then the pipeline was shut in by 4 p.m., I believe,” he said.

He said the produced water flowed into an unnamed creek and then into the North Saskatchewan River, a glacier-fed major waterway that flows east through Edmonton and into central Saskatchewan, where it joins with the South Saskatchewan River and eventually flows into Hudson Bay.

“All of our testing to date shows there’s no impact to the North Saskatchewan at all,” Calder said.

“We sampled it as soon as we got there and there’s no sign of any impact and no impact to wildlife at this time.”

The Alberta Energy Regulator said on its website the spill is estimated at about 400 cubic metres (400,000 litres or 2,500 barrels) of salty produced water.

It says the spill took place near Drayton Valley, a community about 130 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, adding the line has been isolated and cleanup is underway by the company and its environmental consultants.

The regulator’s offices are closed this week for the Christmas holiday. It did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the incident.

“Produced water” is water that is separated at surface from the oil and natural gas from a well. It is often contaminated with salt and oil or other substances.

Calder said the water that leaked contained relatively low levels of salt and other contaminants. He said it was being transported to a site where it would be reinjected into a producing underground formation as part of a waterflood enhanced oil recovery operation.

In November, ARC Resources reported third quarter production of 158,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, of which about 80 per cent was natural gas and 20 per cent petroleum liquids, and announced a 2021 capital budget of about $400 million.

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