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Concerns raised over possible damage caused by fluid leak
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, August 23, 2012 6:48AM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 23, 2012 7:12PM MDT
While crews work to clean up a pipeline leak south of Edmonton, officials are raising concerns over how much damage was truly done to the area.
The leak happened Tuesday, about 10 kilometres east of Red Deer, on a line owned by Penn West Exploration.
The company said staff noticed a drop in pressure in a produced water injection line, and employees found the spill in a canola field.
Penn West claimed that as much as 300,000 litres of "produced water" escaped the system.
"There's no direct public impact, there were no injuries." Greg Moffatt with Penn West said in a phone interview. "The produced water didn't make it to any standing water or creek or anything else like that. It's been isolated and clean-up is underway."
The Energy Resources Conservation Board was notified of the leak on Tuesday.
"Produced water" is a by-product of oil production.
“Within that pipeline there is 97 percent produced water, and 3 percent oil,” ERCB spokeperson Darin Barter said. “So what we are looking at at this point is a lot of produced water on the ground, and a company that is scrambling to clean it up.”
Penn West said the leaked fluid is almost 99% water with low levels of oil.
Moffatt told CTV News the produced water comes to the surface when oil is produced – the two products are separated, and the water is disposed of in an injection well.
"We travelled to the site, we're on site now and our role is to ensure the company is doing everything they can to get the product up off the ground as quickly as possible." Barter said.
ERCB officials said while the solution is mostly water, it could cause damage.
“I was told it was 100 per cent produced water, having said that you don’t want produced water outside of a pipeline,” Barter said.
Produced water can have high levels of saline – however, Penn West said testing of the water was done two weeks ago showed a salt content of less than one percent.
An environmental expert who spoke to CTV News said even a level of one percent is high, and can damage soil.
“We are moving as quickly as we can to remove the water off the land, and then we’ll do soil sampling,” Moffatt said.
As for the landowner, the company said it will fully compensate the farmer who owns the land where the fluid spill occurred.
However, owner Brad Phillips hasn’t heard from the company on damages.
“It’s hard to speculate at this time,” Phillips said. “After they get all the clean-up done, then we’ll assess the damage.
“It takes time whenever you negotiate with oil companies; it’s never an overnight thing.”
Penn West said by Thursday evening, crews had cleaned up about 130,000 litres of fluid.
“If soil needs to be removed, we will do what we need to do to reclaim that land to its pre-spill condition,” Moffatt said.
The spilled fluid was contained to the canola field – and did not enter any bodies of water, meaning any reclamation work will be limited to the soil.
With files from Sonia Sunger