Nexen Energy's Long Lake facility. Image courtesy of Nexen Energy/Flickr.

Nexen Energy was ordered to shut in 95 Alberta pipelines after regulators flagged noncompliance issues at its Long Lake oilsands operations following a July emulsion spill.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) ordered an immediate suspension of 15 pipeline licenses on Friday that required the Calgary-based company to shut in 95 pipelines that carry natural gas, crude oil, salt water, fresh water and emulsion.

The AER said an investigation into a July pipeline failure at Nexen’s Long Lake project indicated pipeline maintenance and monitoring noncompliance on multiple pipelines at the Long Lake Facility.

Under the order, the company must provide sufficient documentation to assure the AER that these lines can be operated safely.

The level of noncompliance or the enforcement action that Nexen may face will be determined by the AER as part of the investigation into the pipeline failure.

The AER investigation into the Long Lake pipeline incident is ongoing.

Nexen confirmed that an emulsion leak was discovered on July 15 within it’s Long Lake operations south of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Emulsion is a mixture of bitumen, produced water and sand.

The spill size is currently estimated at 5,000 cubic meters of emulsion, or about 31,500 barrels, and is believed to have affected an area of about 16,000 square meters, mostly within a compacted pipeline corridor.

“Given that this company has already had a pipeline failure at this site, the AER will not lift this suspension until Nexen can demonstrate that they can be operated safely and within all regulatory requirements. We will accept no less than concrete evidence,” AER president and CEO Jim Ellis.

Nexen is a wholly owned subsidiary of China’s CNOOC.

Production capacity at Long Lake is 72,000 barrels of bitumen per day, according to Nexen.

“Our top priority is the safety of our employees, the public and the environment. We are preparing to comply with the AER’s order as we work to compile the necessary information and documentation. We look forward to continuing to work with the AER to come to resolution on the issue,” Nexen said.


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