Where’s the regulator? CNRL releases into formation another 7000 gallons of Crude Bitumen at Primrose, Cold lake, does not yet know how to repair the problem, or past releases

CNRL spills another 7000 gallons of Crude Bitumen at Cold lake by Derrick, January 9, 2014, West Coast Native News
The well casing failure occurred January 3 during the steaming operations on Primrose Pad 30, A subsurface bitumen release into the formation spilling approximately 7000 gallons of Crude Bitumen, Operations have since been suspended and repair options are being explored.

Since the spring, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., has been struggling to staunch an uncontrollable spill at its in situ oilsands project on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, about 250 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. Bitumen has been bubbling to the surface from underground, seeping into muskeg and water through long, narrow fissures.

CNRL has cut down trees, hauled away tonnes of oily muskeg, put containment booms on a lake, and drained wetlands as it mops up the bitumen. As of the end of September, more than 10,000 barrels of bitumen had been removed; as winter set in, the oily mess solidified and was being taken out by the tonne.

The problem is related to the in situ process for recovering bitumen, in which steam is injected into deep wells to melt the bitumen, and then the process is reversed to pump bitumen to the surface. CNRL blames faulty well bores that allow the melted bitumen to move up through fissures to the surface, and says the seepage will stop when the steam pressure subsides. [Why do they keep re-injecting steam, year after year, when they know they do not know how to fix their leakage problems and underground releases?  The regulator has known of CNRL’s ongoing, uncontrollable problems since 2009]

The Alberta Energy Regulator and the provincial and federal environment ministries are all investigating. [why does the regulator not stop CNRL?]

Meanwhile, on Oct. 31, about 90,000 tonnes of muddy sediment poured into two trout creeks when a containment pond was breached at Sherritt International’s Obed Mountain coal mine northeast of Hinton. The spill launched a plume of slurry containing fine coal particles, clay and heavy metals into the Apetowun and Plante creeks and eventually the Athabasca River. The wall of water and sludge uprooted trees and cut down vegetation in a swath 20 metres wide, and spread contaminated sediment into the forest as far as 10 kilometres away. While contamination in the river did not exceed drinking water guidelines, it did exceed levels necessary to protect aquatic life and for irrigation, and scientists predict there will be significant damage to fish populations. The provincial government slapped an environmental protection order on Sherritt International and Coal Valley Resources for the incident, which is believed to be Canada’s largest coal slurry spill.

Darin Barter, a spokesman for the AER, noted that pit leak incidents are “really rare.” Cleanup continues at both the Obed mine spill and the Cold Lake leak; in both cases, scientists are concerned about the long-term environmental effects of the spills. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Primrose East Bitumen Emulsion Release January 3, 2009 ERCB Investigation Report January 8, 2013

“You can fix a wellbore, but you can’t repair a fractured cap rock,”

Alberta Environment: Cold Lake frac’d bitumen leak has contaminated groundwater; Nikiforuk: Caprock Integrity, Risks of steam-assisted bitumen recovery too little discussed

‘Nobody understands’ leaks at Alberta tar sands high pressure injection operation, Leaks have been going on for weeks with no end in sight, according to a government scientist

CNRL Cold Lake Bitumen Geyser Continues, Despite Company Claims ]

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