Oilsands security in doubt?

While the oilsands industry tries to calm any frayed nerves after a splashy protest by Greenpeace at a Shell work site in northern Alberta, some analysts say the infiltration of such a huge operation should serve as a warning about the security of energy installations.

EDMONTON — While the oilsands industry tries to calm any frayed nerves after a splashy protest by Greenpeace at a Shell work site in northern Alberta, some analysts say the infiltration of such a huge operation should serve as a warning about the security of energy installations.

If demonstrators can get into the site, so could terrorists intent on doing real damage, says Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor and author of a report about groups opposed to development of Western Canada’s resource sector.

“It does raise concerns,” Flanagan says. “It would be wise to take this as a warning of the importance of reviewing procedures to make sure this kind of thing couldn’t happen again.”

About two dozen protesters from Canada, the United States and France gained access to Shell’s (NYSE:RDS.D) Muskeg River mine site north of Fort McMurray, last Tuesday, chaining themselves to giant dump trucks and a four-storey-tall shovel that scoops oily sand from the bottom of a massive pit.

After unfurling a banner which read, “Tarsands: Climate Crime” and spending 31 hours at the mine, the protesters left the fenced and gated site without any charges laid.

Fred Lindsay, Alberta’s solicitor general and minister of public security, says he’d also like to know how the Greenpeace protesters gained access to the tightly controlled site.

But he notes that Alberta’s energy infrastructure is spread over a vast area and not all incidents can be prevented.

“You look at the amount of infrastructure we have in this province, the large resource developments and the miles and miles of pipeline — obviously we can’t fence it all in,” Lindsay says.

“This particular case with Greenpeace has turned out to be a publicity stunt but nonetheless, they gained access which created safety concerns for them as well as the site. So we’re going to mark that to see what we can do to make those sites more secure.”

The province watches for any possible terrorist threats and has counter-terrorism protocols in place.

Canada has a stable political climate and has few violent incidents directed at the resource sector. Lindsay doesn’t expect this latest incident will affect the country’s reputation as a secure supplier of energy.

Toronto-based security analyst Mercedes Stephenson says the Greenpeace action likely took time to plan and noted that the group specializes in such actions.

“I was surprised they got into the facility… but it’s Greenpeace,” Stephenson says. “It has a history of being able to get into all kinds of places that nobody expects them to be able to.”

Oilsands operations likely wouldn’t be the first target of terrorists determined to halt the flow of oil or gas from Alberta, she says.

It’s more likely those groups would choose a vulnerable area along the thousands of kilometres of pipelines that snake across the province.

In recent months pipelines in northeastern British Columbia owned by EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) have been the target of explosions and police have yet to make any arrests.

“If somebody really wanted to do damage, they probably wouldn’t go to an oilsands mining facility,” Stephenson says. “You’d be far more effective if you actually disrupted the flow. Because the flow is what supplying energy.”

Alberta’s oilsands currently produce about 1.2 million barrels per day and the United States has called the Canadian oilsands “critically important” to energy security in North America.

Shell hasn’t determined where the Greenpeace protesters gained access to the mine.

Paul Hagel, a spokesman for Shell Canada, says the incident has prompted a full-scale security review which includes its adjacent Albian Sands site.

“We’re talking about 155,000 barrel a day operation and so obviously, to ensure the future security of it is paramount,” Hagel says.

Just Posted

Innisfail Airport to host convention

2019 Canadian Owners and Pilots Association’s event

Woman bitten at Red Deer dog park

Dog owners reminded to control their pets

Red Deer approves 10 cannabis retail stores

Locations approved around the city

Bike thefts becoming ‘significant problem’ in Red Deer

Residents are sounding the alarm on the growing problem of bike theft… Continue reading

WATCH: A horse was neglected by its owner. Now the horse is suing

ESTACADA, Ore. - Justice is an 8-year-old American quarter horse who used… Continue reading

Nebraska executes first inmate using fentanyl

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska carried out its first execution in more than… Continue reading

Canadian train travellers narrowly avoid deadly Italian bridge collapse

TORONTO — A pair of Canadian student travellers bemoaning what appeared to… Continue reading

Keep bribes quiet for 10 years, FIFA won’t punish you

LONDON — FIFA has officially eradicated corruption. All it took was pressing… Continue reading

Beyoncé honours ailing Aretha Franklin at Detroit concert

DETROIT — Queen Bey dedicated her performance with husband, Jay Z, to… Continue reading

‘Outlaw King’ to open Toronto film fest; ‘Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy’ to close

TORONTO — The world premiere of David Mackenzie’s “Outlaw King,” starring Chris… Continue reading

Male model convicted of murdering rival after online feud

LONDON — A British fashion model has been convicted of murdering a… Continue reading

Red Sox old-timer’s memorabilia going up for sale

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Some items belonging to one of the Boston Red… Continue reading

Rival Korea leaders to meet in Pyongyang in September

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — The rival Koreas announced Monday that North… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month