Canada’s Imperial Oil Ltd. is temporarily shutting down its 220,000 b/d Kearl oilsands site while Inter Pipeline Ltd. repairs a leak that interrupted flows of gasoline-like condensate used as thinner for bitumen shipments from the mine.
The release, detected over the weekend, affects the northeastern Alberta leg of a 238,000 b/d Inter Pipeline conduit called Polaris, between the oilsands region and Edmonton-area supply and delivery hubs. An estimated 550 bbl of condensate spilled before the leak was detected and stopped. No injuries or harm to northern residents or wildlife were reported, and environmental protection efforts were underway.
Imperial and Inter Pipeline declined to estimate a return to service. However, Imperial indicated its facilities remain “ready to ramp up to full production rates once the diluent pipeline is back in service and diluent supply is restored.”
Imperial, which is 70% owned by ExxonMobil, said the shutdown would be conducted in a “safe and controlled manner.” In addition, it is pursuing “a number of steps” to try to mitigate the operational impacts.
The leak did not affect two bigger conduits in Inter Pipeline’s oilsands network, its 576,000 b/d Cold Lake and 403,000 b/d Corridor systems.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding fossil fuels, oilsands production has seen early signs of improvement, according to Calgary-based Canadian Energy Research Institute. The agency sees Alberta oilsands output increasing from the 2019 pre-pandemic pace by 13% to 3.5 million b/d in 2030, and by 39% to 4.3 million b/d in 2039.
Meanwhile, Alberta oilsands are setting a good example when it comes to emissions. IHS Markit analysts said plants had slowed the growth rate of carbon emissions by becoming more efficient.
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