The pipeline industry's dirty secret: 5,000 oil spills in Alberta alone

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Why would Canada allow two more major tar sands pipelines to be built, when leaks in the existing pipelines are already threatening people and wildlife?

Wikipedia defines criminal negligence as “a ‘misfeasance or ‘nonfeasance’ … where the fault lies in the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest.”

This week in DeSmogBlog, Emma Pullman describes a situation that seems to fit the definition.

A 2007 report by the Alberta Energy Utilities Board on pipeline performance found that between 1990 and 2005, there were nearly 5,000 pipeline releases of hydrocarbon liquids. 4,717 spills released less than 1,000 litres of oil, 46 released between 100,000 litres and 1 million litres, and 6 released between 1 million and 10 million litres.

In 1970, for example, a massive break in a Great Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. (now Suncor) pipeline in northern Alberta caused nearly 190,000 litres of synthetic crude to pump into the Athabasca River.

Then, that same year, two separate pipeline ruptures released 158,000 litres of crude into Freeman River and Lake. In 1971, Imperial Oil was responsible for a 4.5 million litre spill west of Edmonton. Two years later, a Gulf Alberta pipeline burst near Camrose spilled roughly 1.1 million litres of crude oil. Through the latter part of the 1970s, a series of spills ravaged Alberta including an Interprovincial Pipeline Company leak in Killam, Alberta that spilled 3 million litres of oil.

Alberta’s pipelines are particularly prone to leak. A 2011 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted that Alberta has suffered 218 spills greater than 100 litres per 10,000 miles of pipeline caused by internal corrosion from 2002 to 2010, compared to the rate of 13.6 spills greater than 100 litres per 10,000 miles of pipeline from internal corrosion reported in the United States.

Wikipedia says that “criminal negligence” becomes “gross criminal negligence” when the failure to foresee involves a “wanton disregard for human life.” It’s hard to imagine why that term wouldn’t apply to the executives of an industry that’s responsible for 5,000 oil spills in 15 years — close to one spill every day.


  • The tar sands have caused an, environmental disaster in the north, that can never be cleaned up. The oil sands reports were shredded. The damage to the forests, air and water, is getting worse by the month.

    The huge Athabasca watershed is contaminated. The Athabasca River is one huge river, carrying cancer laden agents and heavy metals. Seems these huge oil and gas company’s, think we can drink oil. They think our wildlife can also drink oil and survive. The wildlife around the tar sands, are all dying.

    But, Canada’s fool of a P.M. Harper, is approving a pipeline to carry the filthy crude, over thousands of rivers, streams and land. The pipe burst outside of Edmonton, has poisoned all of the underground water. This is a terrible disaster, they are unable to clean up. The First Nations children are all getting sick, and can’t continue going to school.

    Worst of all, Our fool of a P.M. Harper, wants to bring in China’s dirty oil tankers into the Port of Kitimat, to pick up the dirty sludge. The sea channel, to get to Port Kitimat is, one of the most dangerous seas in the world. There are furious winds, huge waves. Huge rocks and under sea cropping’s of rocks are all along the narrow, treacherous channel, these tankers have to navigate through. There will be a spill, and then, there will be rage.

    We do not want that filthy sludge, anywhere near our beautiful province. Our idiot ex premier Campbell destroyed BC financially, for the people. Now our lovely province will be turned into a polluted wasteland, and we will have nothing left.

    Harper may send his fighter jets with no engines to bomb us. However, thousands of BC people are going to support, our First Nations people to stop this atrocity.

  • Linear resource exploitation for short term monetary profit is antithethical to the long term sustainability of life. Deep in their psyches I think that the people involved in these so called industries know this. Consequently to mantain their involvement they have to dumb down their moral sensibilities. That this happens is revealed through the facts in the above article.