Crews are on the scene of a small oil leak from a pipeline in central Alberta, the latest in a string the province has faced over the past year.
The spill was spotted Wednesday afternoon near Thorsby, Alta., about 70 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, by a worker mowing the lawn along the leased site, the company said.
A very small amount leaked from the line. About 38 to 40 barrels of oil have leaked onto land, said David Beckwermert, president and chief executive officer of Ravenwood Energy Corp., which owns the line.
About 80 per cent of it – or 6,700 litres – has been recovered by vacuum trucks, and the cleanup is on track to be completed Thursday, Mr. Beckwermert said.
The spill of the scale is small, he stressed.
"I'm amazed, to be honest with you, that this has made it to anybody. This is a very small leak. Not that it's not important, but in the scheme of it there's millions of barrels flowing out of Canada," he said in an interview.
The spill pales in comparison to one along the Red Deer River in June, where between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels of oil spilled, as much as 75 times the size of Wednesday's leak.
The province's regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, had said Wednesday evening it was a 20 to 25 barrel spill. The agency's spokesman, Bob Curran, characterized it as "very small," saying the oil was a sweet crude emulsion, or mix. The board has, in the past, underestimated the scale of spills in the province.
This week's leak comes as premiers, gathered in Halifax, are discussing a Canadian energy strategy, and as British Columbia and Alberta spar over the fate of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. B.C. Premier Christy Clark says the province is assuming too much risk while receiving very little tax revenue, and has pledged to block the project unless her province gets more cash.
The Alberta government fired back, saying it wouldn't share any revenue, and stressing that "pipelines are still by far the safest means by which to transport oil."
Since 2011, there have been at least 10 oil spills, ranging from small to large, in Alberta. The biggest include one from a Plains Midstream pipe near Little Buffalo, where an estimated 4.5-million litres spilled in April, 2011, and another in December last year, near Judy Creek, Alta., where 1.9-million litres spilled from a Pengrowth Energy Corp. pipeline. There were two major spills in June, totalling as much as 700,000 litres.