Lessons learned from the 2016 spill will be used to ensure safety in the new build, the company says
Husky Energy says it has learned its lesson from the 2016 oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River that knocked out Prince Albert’s water supply and caused millions of dollars worth of damage.
To prove it, the oil company held an open house in the city Wednesday to talk about their new pipeline project, which will also cross the North Saskatchewan River upstream of Prince Albert. The project is being built to accommodate an expansion of thermal projects north of the river. Two pipes will bring condensate and heavy oil to and from the thermal plants and the company’s processing facility in Lloydminster, while a third pipeline will transport water pulled from the river to the well site.
For this new project, a 20-inch pipe will carry the heavy oil and condensate mixture back from the thermal project to Lloydminster, while an 8-inch pipe will carry the condensate out to the project. The third pipe is also 20 inches, and that will run from a water intake in the river to the thermal projects north of the river. All three pipes will share the same right of way.
Husky officials said the water intake system, which will skim about 0.6 per cent of the river’s average flow. Any fish mistakenly caught in the intake will be returned through what the company says is a fish-friendly pipe back to the river.
That project is ongoing, with approvals from the Federal ministries of Fisheries and Oceans and of Transportation, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment.
“We’ve got four new thermal production facilities that will be producing oil by 2020 north of the river, and after that, a significant growth interest, maybe two thermals a year, going forward,” said Travis Davies, Husky Energy spokesperson.
“We’ve got pretty big production expansion plans and this expanded pipe, this 20-inch pipe, is needed to get that oil to Lloydminster for processing.”
The pipelines will cross the river near Hillmond, Saskatchewan, crossing from the RM of Eldon to the RM of Frenchman Butte. The crossing location is about 250 km west of Prince Albert, and about 37 km northeast of Lloydminster.
Despite the distance, Husky thought it was important to hold an open house to update Prince Albert residents in light of the 2016 spill.
“In 2016, we had an incident that impacted the river and impacted the town. it was the right thing to do to address the concerns of the people there who had been impacted,” Davies said.
We learned a lot from that incident and applied a lot of that knowledge to the new project, whether it is a new design that sees us going hilltop to hilltop, or boring 80m under the river instead of being on the slope.”
The slope was a reason identified in reports as to why the pipeline failed before. The shifting of the slope warped the pipe, leading to a rupture.
That’s not the only change. Davies said the company is using better, higher quality steel, thicker steel and newer technology that used fibre optics to measure the acoustics, thermal conditions and any strain on the pipe.
“It is a much better project, and we wanted to make sure the people of P.A. knew that,” Davies said.
The 2016 oil spill resulted in more than 225,000 litres of diluted heavy oil to leak. About 40 per cent of that ended up in the river near Maidstone. The cleanup cost was estimated at $107 million, and the company paid $5 million to Prince Albert for costs related to the spill, including the rehabilitation of Little Red River Park where the Little Red River was dammed to act as a secondary water source, and improvements to the water treatment plant. The oil cut off Prince Albert’s water supply, and the city put restrictions in place while a temporary pipeline was built to grab water from the South Saskatchewan River.
At Wednesday’s open house, safety and job creation were people’s main two concerns, Davies said.
“We had some folks that want to know what’s different, what we are doing differently, what we learned, and I think that’s a big part of the story, that’s the main objective,” he said.
“We had a lot of people interested in procuring jobs and employment as well. Those are the two main things: ‘what are you doing different now’ and ‘can I work here’.”
Davies said the pipeline projects themselves will cost about $130 million, and lead to 300-600 jobs during construction. The spend on the thermal project will approach $5 billion, create 200-300 jobs per project during construction, and 30-40 to operate each plant going forward. He said the province will also benefit from royalty and tax revenue that comes from the projects.
City manager Jim Toye was pleased with the presentation.
“It’s good to have them here,” he said.
“I think they recognize the last time they had an incident in the river we were drastically affected, and I appreciate their presence to go over their new line and the new technology they are using to ensure what happened last year is not going to happen again.”
Toye said public perception is vital, and he’s confident through the open house and other meetings with company officials that the pipe will be constructed better, and if a leak happens, it will be detected immediately.
“This is going to be much safer,” he said.
“I think they learned their lesson, and what they’re trying to do now is have these public consultations so they can prove not just with lip service but with design why this is going to be much safer than the previous pipe.”
Consultations not complete yet
While the last open house was held in North Battleford Thursday, Husky said its consultation process is ongoing, including with Indigenous communities.
Davies said the company has been engaging with communities about this project for some time, and that the process will continue.