Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Blowout near Conklin shoots steam and bitumen into the air

This project-- Devon Jackfish-- had only just announced their approval to double in size. They also just got a few million dollars as "cutting edge leaders" in C02 "capture" technology. They are supposed to be among the best of the tar sands companies in terms of "performance" and "doing the right thing".

In fact, they probably are. And yet they still eject poison all over the lands. Because it is not about "rating" their performances, and seeing who is "most environmentally responsible." Putting a series of men convicted of assault on a scale of "most responsible for helping the woman recover afterwards" is twisted, gross logic. So is calling a tar sands operator "better" at promoting tar sands development. So what? Shut them all down!


Blowout near Conklin shoots steam and bitumen into the air

By Darcy Henton and Hanneke Brooymans,
July 12, 2010

EDMONTON — A well at an oilsands site near Conklin blew out early Saturday afternoon shooting a mist of steam and bitumen about 12 metres into the air.

A Devon Canada spokeswoman said the blowout occurred on their Jackfish steam assisted gravity drainage site and that they managed to shut in the well 36 hours later around midnight on Sunday. The town of Conklin is about eight kilometres from the site of the blowout.

It’s not known how many barrels of bitumen were released, said Nadine Barber. The total cleanup is expected to take two to three weeks.

Harvey Scott, a retired University of Alberta professor who sits as a director on the council of the Keepers of the Athabasca, said local residents are worried the blowout contaminated nearby Sunday Creek and threatens the Christina River.

Barber said a gasoline-type sheen was spotted on the creek and booms were put in downstream, just in case.

“We’ll do all the necessary things to ensure cleanup happens in a timely manner.”

No employees or contractors were injured in the blowout. The jet that burst from the wellhead was approximately 70 per cent steam and 30 per cent bitumen, Barber said. The well that blew out was one of seven on a well pad. The entire well pad was shut in, resulting in the likely loss of several thousand barrels of bitumen.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board put out a news release Monday saying it is investigating the blowout that occurred at the site.

Scott said they are concerned about the intensity of in situ exploration and drilling in the area and not convinced all necessary steps are being taken to ensure surface and groundwater supplies in the area won’t be affected.

“We’re not convinced that our government is on top of it,” said Scott. “We think the fact it took them 36 hours to give notice of this event is sort of symptomatic of a hands-off, laissez-faire approach.”

He said his group is not convinced that in situ is any less environmentally destructive than open-pit oilsands mining.

“Since open pit is ugly looking and there are concerns about (tailings pond) leakage, the implication is that in situ has much less potential impact. We’re not sure that’s the case,” he said.

Scott said it is difficult for many local residents to raise their concerns because either they or their neighbours are financially dependent on the oilpatch, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worried about the environmental impacts.

“In Alberta there is such a fear of losing jobs that people don’t feel free to speak out,” he said. “Our job is to raise awareness, to monitor and report what is going on, and to provide a voice for the voiceless.”

Barber said they don’t know the cause of the blowout. It’s still under investigation and could have been caused by a number of factors, she said.

The Jackfish project has been running for two years with no operational problems, Barber said. The site normally produces 35,000 barrels of bitumen each day.

The blowout happened at a wellhead. Barber said this makes the incident completely unlike the explosion that happened at Total E&P Canada’s Joslyn Creek site in 2006. An investigation showed that a breach in the rock above the bitumen layer was caused by the company using steam pressures over the approved levels.


© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal


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