Legislation to address Husky oil spill response

By Angela Brown
March 24, 2017 - 4:42pm Updated: March 24, 2017 - 5:12pm

Following last summer's Husky oil spill impacting North Battleford residents' water source, the province has completed an investigation into the cause of the accident and has made recommendations to help improve future reporting procedures.

A total of 225 cubic metres of oil spilled from a break in a piece of pipe carrying oil near the Saskatchewan River last summer. Roughly 60 per cent of the spill was contained on land before the oil entered the river.

After reviewing a report investigating the details of the accident - the cause of the oil spill and the action taken by Husky when the spill was identified on July 21, 2016 - the province is pursuing new legislation to help improve procedures if a similar event were to happen again.  

The Pipelines Amendment Act, Bill 43, is expected to be passed by the end of the Legislature's spring session with plans to improve regulatory requirements for oil pipelines. 

In the report, the province indicates the changes will "address a variety of gaps" in the current legislation.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan said Bill 43 license flow-lines in the province and will require more inspections by the provincial government, and more reporting by companies.

He said the government will have more inspection powers, too, especially around waterways. 

"It will be a more proactive system, to ensure companies have compliances that meet standards and that they are following their standards," Duncan said.

As for the most recent spill, Investigators determined over a number of years a buckle formed in the pipeline, as a result of a continuous slope movement in the pipe. The buckle in the pipeline caused cracks in the structure, which led to the leak.

In his report, Duncan said investigators concluded that the slope movement of the piepline was "not a one-time event."    

When detailing the events following the leak, the province indicated a member of the public was the first person to notice the problem and contact the province after seeing an oil slick on the river near the Tobey Nollet Bridge. 

The ministry investigated, and contacted Husky. Husky then contacted the province to confirm the location of the leak at a crossing upstream of the bridge. When the ministry contacted Husky, the company confirmed it also received a report of oil on the river and staff were looking for potential sources of the spill.

The province focused on overseeing the clean up and reviewed the cause of the pipe break.

Investigators noted the leak began July 20, the day before the spill was discovered. Husky would have received information there was a problem because 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.

The investigator's full report has been sent to the Ministry of Justice for review.

“Since the Husky spill in July, we’ve recognized that we need to do better when it comes to preventing incidents,” Duncan said in a release on Thursday.  "The changes announced today will help ensure that workers and the environment are well protected moving forward.”

The Husky pipeline was built in 1997 following engineers' standards for that time. Investigators will look for weaknesses in the older pipeline designs to see how they can be improved. 


-With files from Greg Higgins

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