Yesterday’s news of the Plains Midstream Canada oil pipeline spill on the Red Deer River and Glennifer Lake has attracted some much needed attention to Alberta’s pipeline system. While this most recent spill of between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels (~159-477 cubic metres) of light sour crude oil garnered a lot of national news media attention, the larger May 2012 spill near Rainbow Lake barely stimulated more than an article in the Globe and Mail. The national (and even sometimes the local) news media outlets more often ignore oil pipeline spills in Alberta. Between 2006 and 2010 there were more than 1,600 crude oil spills on Alberta’s pipeline system. How many of these spills made it into the headlines? Very few.
I was pleased to be able to add something to the public discussion about oil pipeline spills, underlining the broader problem of the ubiquity of such “rare” incidents in Alberta’s oil spill history. Yesterday, I recorded a brief interview with 660News Calgary in which I refuted Premier Alison Redford’s assertion that “In Alberta, this does not happen very often, and when it does we’re able to get a handle on it quickly.” The truth is, oil pipeline spills are endemic to the industry in Alberta. Between 2006 and 2010, there have been thousands of pipeline releases of liquid hydrocarbons totaling roughly 174,213 barrels of oil (~27,700 cubic metres). You can listen to the segment below (I’m on toward the end).