By Dina O'Meara, Calgary Herald, June 8, 2012
Pembina Pipeline leak in 2008 happened within three kilometres
CALGARY — A pipeline breach north of Sundre that spilled up to 3,000 barrels of sour crude oil into a tributary of the Red Deer River Thursday happened within three kilometres of a similar break in 2008.
Workers stretch oil-soaking booms across the Gleniffer reservoir to stop crude flowing from a pipeline break near Sundre, in west central Alberta. (Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh , THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The circumstances behind the Pembina Pipeline break were remarkably similar to Thursday’s incident when a Plains Midstream oil pipeline broke under Jackson Creek, about two kilometres north of the town.
A report released in 2009 on the Pembina incident revealed the break happened after heavy rainfall eroded soil around the underground pipeline.
The exposure to river currents bent the pipe to the breaking point, so-called “one-way” bending fatigue, resulting in about 177 barrels of sweet crude flowing into the Red Deer River and Gleniffer Lake.
At the time, Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Davis Sheremata called the pipeline break “an extraordinary situation,” and “a very, very rare incident” that could not have been foreseen.
On Friday the board said it was too soon to tell exactly what conditions caused the Plains break.
“There’s just no way we can draw any comparisons until we have some of those hard facts in hand and we don’t have them yet,” said spokesman Bob Curran.
The break happened approximately five kilometres north of Sundre, a town cradled in lush, rolling hills and the winding course of the Red Deer River.
Members of the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, a non-profit organization, alerted Plains and the regulator after detecting the pungent smell of sour oil, initiating an emergency response from the company and government agencies.
“We certainly are very concerned any time this happens,” said Tracy McCrimmon, executive director of the landowner and industry group.
McCrimmon, who lives south of the spill site, said the group was working with the company and government agencies to connect with landowners and residents in the area.
“I don’t think they’ve gotten into the hows or the whys yet,” she said. “But we want to actively participate and find out why this is happening so that we can prevent it from happening again.
The group has worked successfully with industry in addressing landowner concerns about multi-stage fracturing, and anticipates a similar outcome, McCrimmon said.
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