Saskatoon

Husky could be fined $1M per day for Saskatchewan oil spill

Crown prosecutors are investigating Husky's response to the oil spill near Maidstone last July 20, say government officials.

Husky Energy promises co-operation with prosecutors on probe into last July's oil spill

Government officials say they've handed the investigation to the Ministry of Justice. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

An investigation into a major oil spill in Saskatchewan last year has been handed over to Crown prosecutors.

Government officials said the investigation is not criminal, but could result in fines of up to $1 million per day for Husky Energy, the company at the centre of the spill.

"I am deeply concerned about this type of incident, and I think our actions today and going forward, I believe, show that we've taken this very seriously," Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan told reporters Thursday.

Despite the budget cuts in many other ministries, Duncan noted $1.4 million has been earmarked for new regulatory measures for the resource sector. Pipeline companies will also now pay to help finance government regulation enforcement, he said.

​Roughly 225,000 litres of oil leaked from a ruptured pipeline on July 20 and 21, 2016, near Maidstone, Sask. Much of it flowed into the North Saskatchewan River, prompting North Battleford, Prince Albert and other communities to find alternative drinking sources.

"Husky's response to the alarms has been extensively investigated and the details concerning their reasons for not shutting down the system are being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice," said Doug MacKnight of the Ministry of the Economy.

Husky takes responsibility: spokesperson

Husky will comply fully with the investigation, said company spokesperson Mel Duvall.

"Well, we'll have to answer any questions that are put to us. We've co-operated fully all along. We respect the process that's underway."

Duvall said Husky takes full responsibility for the spill and is doing everything possible to remedy the situation. He said information on the spill released by government officials Thursday is consistent with the company's information.

Husky's response to the spill last summer has been questioned by many. Some wonder why the oil spill was not detected or stopped on the day it began.

MacKnight said the justice ministry review will be conducted "as quickly as possible," but the file is large and technically complex.

The provincial government has submitted a bill for $1.1 million to Husky for expenses incurred in 2016 on the cleanup, MacKnight said.

Government's timeline of the spill:

  • Based on an analysis of the operating data, the investigators have concluded that the leak began on July 20, the day before the discovery of the spill.
  • The pipeline's dual alarm leak detection systems were issuing notices to the operators of potential problems prior to the spill and continued until the system was shut down for scheduled maintenance at 7:15 a.m. CST on July 21.
  • Husky's response to the alarms has been extensively investigated and the details concerning their reasons for not shutting down the system are being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.
  • The Government of Saskatchewan was first notified of the spill when a member of the public reported an oil slick on the river near the bridge. This call was received at approximately 8:30 a.m. on July 21.
  • After obtaining additional information from the caller, two staff members from the Ministry of the Economy's field office in Lloydminster were dispatched to the bridge at approximately 8:40 a.m. to investigate the source of the spill. They arrived on site at approximately 9:35 a.m. and confirmed there was a significant amount of oil on the river. The source of the oil was not immediately known and staff began a search of the area.
  • Ministry staff also contacted Husky at 9:50 a.m. to advise it of the incident and ask if they had any knowledge of the spill. Husky confirmed that it had also received a report of oil on the river and staff were also looking for potential sources.
  • At 10 a.m. Husky contacted the Ministry of the Economy to confirm the location of the incident at its crossing upstream of the bridge.
  • The broader multi-agency provincial response was activated at that point with the Ministry of Environment formally assuming overall provincial lead for the response. The Ministry of the Economy staff shifted their focus to the immediate clean-up of oil on the right-of-way and the investigation of the cause of the break.

About the Author

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.