Oilsands diluent pipeline partly closed following spill near Fort McMurray

Operator Inter Pipeline Ltd. says it has partially shut down its Polaris pipeline system following a leak detected on Crown recreational land just east of the Fort McMurray airport in northern Alberta.

According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, initial reports indicated about 550 bbls of light oil were released with no reported impacts to waterbodies or wildlife.

The pipeline is used to move light petroleum such as condensate from Edmonton to the region where it is used by oilsands companies to dilute heavy bitumen so it will flow in a pipeline to market.

In a report, analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. warned the shutdown, if prolonged, could potentially affect the supply of diluent for steam-driven oilsands projects owned by companies including Imperial Oil Ltd., Husky Energy Inc., Cenovus Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Limited.

On its website, Inter Pipeline says its leak detection systems signalled an anomaly on Saturday morning and its Polaris and Corridor bitumen pipeline systems were shut down. The source was discovered to be Polaris on Monday and the Corridor pipeline was restarted.

The company is in contact with its customers but has not yet identified the cause of the leak, nor does it have an estimate of how long it will take to make repairs and get the line running again, said spokeswoman Breanne Oliver.

In 2019, the Polaris system transported an average of about 238,000 bbls/d of diluent, Inter says on its website. Oliver said she couldn't say how much diluent is still being delivered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2020.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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