Suncor Newfoundland Spill: Energy Company Charged In Synthetic Drilling Mud Incident

Posted: 04/ 4/2012 3:27 pm Updated: 04/ 4/2012 6:29 pm

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) faces three federal charges relating to a reported spill of synthetic-based mud from an offshore drilling rig last year off Newfoundland.

The charges laid by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board follow a reported spill of more than 26,000 litres of fluid used to lubricate drill pipes and balance reservoir pressure.

Suncor is charged with causing an offshore spill, failing to handle drilling fluids in a way that would prevent pollution, and failing to handle drilling fluids so they don't create an environmental hazard.

If convicted, Suncor could face a fine of up to $100,000 for each charge or jail time of up to one year under the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord.

The federal-provincial offshore regulator laid the charges after investigating a reported spill March 28, 2011, on the Henry Goodrich drill rig.

Suncor Energy spokeswoman Nancy Wicks says protecting workers and the environment is a top priority.

She declined to comment further as the issue is now before court.

Shortly after the spill, the province's natural resources minister chided the regulator for taking three days to report it.

A spokesman for the regulator said it took time to verify the details and investigate possible causes, but agreed that officials could have been quicker in releasing information about the spill.

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  • Fort McMurray, a.k.a. 'Oilsands City'

  • Stunning Population Growth

    Fort McMurray, Alberta, has seen its population grow from 926 in 1951, to more than 60,000 today -- a growth rate of 70,000 per cent over 60 years. The city grew by 14,000 people, or 29 per cent, in just the 2006 to 2011 period. Source: <a href="http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=POPC&Code1=0292&Geo2=PR&Code2=48&Data=Count&SearchText=Fort McMurray&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&Custom=&TABID=1" target="_hplink">StatsCan</a>

  • Far More Men Than Women

    Whereas in Alberta in general there are approximately 99 to 104 men for every 100 women, in Fort McMurray, where male-dominated oil jobs dominate, that ratio is skewed well towards men. There are 110 to 140 men for every 100 women in Fort McMurray, depending on the neighbourhood. Source: <a href="http://kcorreia.com/2011/fortmac-communities/" target="_hplink">Kevin Correia</a> <em>This caption has been corrected from an earlier version.</em>

  • Arm And A Leg For Housing

    The average price of a two-bedroom apartment in April, 2011, was $2,152 -- comparable to major Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver. For those rates to be affordable, you'd need to earn at least $80,000 per year. But given that oil workers can earn as much as $120,000, that is, actually, affordable by Fort McMurray standards. Source: <a href="http://www.woodbuffalo.net/AboutCostIntro.html" target="_hplink">Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality</a>

  • Third Largest Oil Reserves In The World

    Fort McMurray sits at the centre of what is now recognized as the third-largest proven supply of oil in the world. Alberta has 170.8 billion barrels of oil in the ground, about 12 per cent of the world's total. By comparison, Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels, and Venezuela 211 billion. The oil sands' share of that total continues to grow, and with it, Fort McMurray's importance to the industry. The city is expected to quadruple in size, to about 231,000, within 20 years. Source: <a href="http://www.energy.alberta.ca/oilsands/791.asp" target="_hplink">Government of Alberta</a>

  • Giant Job Machine

    There are 140,000 people employed in Alberta's oil and gas extraction industry -- a very large number, considering the province's total population of 3.6 million. In all, energy counts for 23.4 per cent of Alberta's economy. Source: <a href="http://www.energy.alberta.ca/oilsands/791.asp" target="_hplink">Government of Alberta</a>

  • Now That's Cold

    Classified as a sub-Arctic zone, Fort McMurray is bitingly cold, even by Canadians' standards. The average night-time low in January is minus-24 Celsius, or minus-11 Fahrenheit, though the average daytime high in July does reach a decent 23 Celsius (73 Fahrenheit). Source: <a href="http://www.theweathernetwork.com/statistics/CL3062693/caab0124" target="_hplink">The Weather Network</a>

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Filed by Daniel Tencer  |