June 14, 2016 / 6:42 PM / 2 years ago

ConocoPhillips pipe spills light oil near Alberta caribou range

(Reuters) - A ConocoPhillips COP.N pipeline has leaked nearly 2,400 barrels of condensate, an ultra-light form of oil, within an endangered caribou and grizzly bear range in west-central Alberta, the company said on Tuesday.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) issued an environmental protection order to the company, which shut down and isolated the pipeline and is investigating the cause of the spill.

It is the largest hydrocarbon leak from a pipeline in Alberta since Nexen Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of China’s CNOOC ltd 0883.HK, spilled 31,500 barrels of bitumen emulsion in July 2015, according to the AER website.

Last month Apache Canada Ltd APA.N spilled 3,800 barrels of produced water near Whitecourt, Alberta.

ConocoPhillips first reported the leaking of condensate, an ultra-light hydrocarbon, from a 7.25-kilometre (4.5-mile) pipeline near its Resthaven gas plant on June 9.

The spill is around 65 km(40 miles) northeast of Grand Cache, Alberta, and is within the Little Smoky Caribou Range, according to the AER. A key wildlife and biodiversity zone is 1 km (0.6 mile) northwest of the site, while a core grizzly bear zone is 5 km (3 miles) south.

The AER said there was a dead patch of vegetation near the pipeline and a visible sheen on Webb Creek 300 meters (328 yards) away, which stretched for approximately 4.5 km (2.8 miles) upstream and downstream of a beaver pond.

Conoco Phillips has erected a boom, deployed soaker pads to contain the condensate spill and activated its emergency response plan. The company said 150 people were sent at the site.

The Simonette River lies 2 km (1.2 miles) downstream of the beaver pond and the AER said although it had not observed any visible sheen, testing showed slightly elevated hydrocarbon levels in the water.

“We will conduct a full investigation into the cause of the incident when we’ve brought it to a safe conclusion and participate fully in the AER investigation,” ConocoPhillips said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Sandra Maler

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