NWT town cut off from natural gas supply die to oil spill in Alberta

NORMAN WELLS, N.W.T. — An energy company says it’s going to help a town in the Northwest Territories that’s running out of heating fuel due to an oil spill last week in Alberta.

NORMAN WELLS, N.W.T. — An energy company says it’s going to help a town in the Northwest Territories that’s running out of heating fuel due to an oil spill last week in Alberta.

Last Friday, a pipeline operated by Plains Midstream leaked about 4.5 million litres of oil near Peace River, Alta., the largest leak in the province in 36 years.

The line has been repaired but Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board is reviewing its application to reopen the line.

Norman Wells, which has 860 residents, relies on natural gas produced from Imperial Oil’s nearby oil fields, and Imperial says it may have to halt production if Plains Midstream Canada’s Rainbow pipeline doesn’t restart soon.

The town declared a state of emergency Friday and Atco Energy says town officials asked the Calgary-based company for assistance.

Miriam Mitchell-Banks, vice-president of Atco, says the company is mobilizing a team of staff and equipment from Alberta to help Norman Wells through this crisis.

She says Atco will keep the town’s gas distribution system operating with propane in place of natural gas.

Mitchell-Banks says equipment was to be taken by Hercules transport plane to Norman Wells Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Plains Midstream Canada has updated its cleanup efforts. It said 14 more staff were being brought to the site to resume skimming operations from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., providing 24 hours of recovery efforts.

As of Thursday morning, the company said about 1.8 million litres of spilled fluid, which includes oil, water and solids have been recovered from the spill site.

The company says that represents 33 per cent of the total amount spilled.

It also says seven beavers, 19 ducks, six migratory birds and two frogs have died due to the spill.

The 44-year-old pipeline runs from Zama, Alta., to Edmonton, carrying an average of 187,000 barrels a day.