Canadian Underwriter

Saskatchewan government announces steps to improve pipeline regulations following 2016 Husky spill

March 27, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The government of Saskatchewan has announced steps to improve pipeline regulations after the completion of its investigation into last July’s Husky pipeline oil spill.

Saskatchewan Energy Minister Dustin Duncan, right, scrums with reporters at the provincial legislature, in Regina, Sask., on Thursday, November 17, 2016. Duncan says the government will need time to review Husky Energy’s report submitted Thursday on an oil spill in Saskatchewan. Husky Energy says shifting ground is the reason a section of its pipeline burst in July, leaking an estimated 225,000 litres of crude and condensate into the North Saskatchewan River. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jennifer Graham

Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan announced last week that the Ministry of the Economy had completed its investigation into the Husky pipeline incident on July 21, 2016. The findings, which have been provided to the Ministry of Justice, indicate that the cause of the pipeline break was due to mechanical cracking in a buckle in the pipeline. The buckle was caused by ground movement on the slope over “many years,” the ministry said in a statement.

The volume of spilled material is approximately 225 cubic metres of oil blended with distillates.

It is estimated that roughly 60% was contained or recovered on land prior to the point of entry into the river, with the released volume independently calculated by investigators. This volume calculation will continue to guide the provincial response and monitoring of the clean-up, the release added.

Related: Saskatchewan government introduces act aimed at enhancing regulatory oversight of provincial pipelines

Based on the report’s findings, the ministry is taking a series of steps to improve regulations, including:

  • Passing the Pipelines Amendment Act (Bill 43) by the end of the legislature’s spring session, which will provide the foundation for strengthening regulatory requirements for pipelines. These changes are broad-based and will address a variety of gaps in the current legislative framework, the ministry reported;
  • Immediately beginning work on a compliance audit of the integrity management programs of companies that operate pipelines across major water crossings. This work will build off the inspections conducted last year, but will include a review of corporate oversight of these programs;
  • Working with key stakeholders and third-party experts to develop appropriate regulatory standards for water crossings (Husky investigations have determined that current regulatory standards and integrity management practices need to be strengthened to fully address the types of risks associated with these locations (slope movement in particular)); and
  • Reviewing the design of legacy water crossings to determine whether additional measures may be needed to manage geotechnical risk. The Husky pipeline was built in 1997 based on the engineering standards of the time, and the ministry will be working to ensure any deficiencies in older designs are addressed by operators (in terms of integrity management practices or new mitigation measures).

“Since the Husky spill in July, we’ve recognized that we need to do better when it comes to preventing incidents,” Duncan said in the statement. “The changes announced today will help ensure that workers and the environment are well protected moving forward. We have consulted with industry on these actions. Working together, we will ensure the timely implementation of any changes.”

Related: Husky spill in southwest Alberta estimated at 25,000 litres; cleanup going well

The report also included the timeline surrounding the occurrence and reporting of the pipeline failure, as follows:

  • Based on an analysis of the operating data, investigators have concluded that the leak began on July 20, 2016, the day before the discovery of the spill;
  • The pipeline’s dual alarm leak detection systems were issuing notices to the operators of potential problems prior to the spill and continued until the system was shut down for scheduled maintenance at 7:15 a.m. on July 21, 2016;
  • Husky’s response to the alarms has been extensively investigated and the details concerning their reasons for not shutting down the system are being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice;
  • The Government of Saskatchewan was first notified of the spill when a member of the public reported an oil slick on the river near the Tobey Nollet Bridge. The call was received at about 8:30 a.m. and, after obtaining additional information, two staff members from the Ministry of the Economy’s field office in Lloydminster were dispatched to the bridge at approximately 8:40 a.m. to investigate the source of the spill. They arrived on site at approximately 9:35 a.m. and confirmed there was a significant amount of oil on the river. The source of the oil was not immediately known and staff began a search of the area;
  • Ministry staff also contacted Husky at 9:50 a.m. to advise it of the incident and ask if they had any knowledge of the spill. Husky confirmed that it had also received a report of oil on the river and staff were also looking for potential sources;
  • At 10 a.m., Husky contacted the Ministry of the Economy to confirm the location of the incident at its crossing upstream of the bridge;
  • The broader, multi-agency provincial response was activated at that point with the Ministry of Environment formally assuming overall provincial lead for the response in accordance with long-standing procedures for substantive discharges impacting water bodies. The Ministry of the Economy staff shifted their focus to the immediate clean-up of oil on the right-of-way and the investigation of the cause of the break.

Related: Cleanup of oil spill in Saskatchewan cost $107 million, Husky Energy says

While the technical review – conducted in partnership between the Ministries of the Economy, Environment and the Water Security Agency, with the support of Skystone International – is complete, the full report will be released once all prosecution processes and any appeals have been concluded, the statement concluded.