Contaminants Hit North Saskatchewan River After Pipeline Spills 400,000 Litres of ‘Salty Produced Water’
CALGARY — 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, a spokesperson for Calgary-based fossil ARC Resources Ltd. said late last month.
The spill was reported by a local landowner at about 2 PM December 25, said Sean Calder, ARC’s vice-president of production, in an interview with The Canadian Press December 29.
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“We had guys onsite within about an hour and then the pipeline was shut in by 4 PM, I believe,” he said.
He said the leaked 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 under way by the company and its environmental consultants.
AER spokeswoman Cara Tobin confirmed that no contaminants from the spill had been identified in the North Saskatchewan, which she said is about 12 kilometres from the pipeline spill site.
The unnamed creek wasn’t thought to be fish-bearing, but fish have been found living there, she added, which means the company must do more to mitigate effects from the spill. She said AER staff were onsite and continued to work with the company.
“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% was natural gas and 20% liquids, and announced a 2021 capital budget of about $400 million.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published December 29, 2020.