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This map shows oil and gas industry spills reported to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources, Sask Environment and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada from Jan. 1, 2000 to Dec. 31, 2018, a period that included the height of Saskatchewan’s oil boom. The data represents all spills reported to Sask Energy and Resources under the Oil and Gas Conservation Act, oil and gas industry-related spills reported to Sask Environment, and interprovincial pipeline and oil car spills reported to the TSB. GPS locations were converted from Legal Subdivision land descriptions; they therefore lie generally within the reported quarter-section, rather than at the precise spill point. Any errors in location ID, place name spelling, or other information items are errors of the reporting company or government inspector, for which the Price of Oil team bears no responsibility. As H2S (sour gas) measurements were not collected and submitted to the Energy and Resources database until 2019, this information is not presented in the map, though such incidents did occur. In cases where all entries are marked as ‘0’ an incident occurred, but no data was reported.
Released November 14, 2019
About the Saskatchewan Spills Map
This map was constructed by researchers and students at the University of Regina, one of four participating universities in the Price of Oil, a national investigative project, conducted in collaboration with the Corporate Mapping Project, a consortium of researchers examining oil industry influence in Western Canada.
The map combines and geo-locates publicly available spills data from Saskatchewan Energy and Resources, Saskatchewan Environment, and the federal Transportation Safety Board. All three jurisdictions oversee various aspects of oil and gas production, storage and transportation.
It pinpoints 14,958 spills between Jan.1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2018, which released a total 18.9 billion litres of substances. This includes 59 million litres of oil and 205 million litres of produced water, which is typically laden with salt and chemicals that affect soil fertility. Seventy-one per cent of these substances were recovered, leaving 77 million litres behind in the soil and water. Water bodies were impacted 578 times.
Of the 18 billion litres of natural gas that escaped in accidents, almost none was recoverable, adding to Saskatchewan’s greenhouse gas emissions. Gas that is a byproduct of oil drilling may typically include benzenes, toluene, hydrogen sulfide, PAHs and other substances harmful to human health.
Toward the end of the 2018 reporting period, the research team noted the province made significant improvements to the system where releases are recorded. Oil companies now enter information about deadly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas in their reports. H2S emissions were the subject of a 2017-2018 investigative journalism series by the Price of Oil project’s media partners, the Toronto Star, the National Observer and Global News.
While the map covers a nine-year period, the team examined records back to the early 1990s. Since 1990, there have been 20,664 spills reported to Energy and Resources totalling 19 billion litres, of which some 300 million litres was recovered. The Environment ministry received reports of 16.8 million litres spilled in 546 industry-related incidents identified by the team, while the federal Transportation Safety Board reported 13.6 billion litres spilled in nine major incidents, of which 1.5 million litres were reported recovered. Water bodies have been impacted by spills 787 times since 1990.
We recognize that oil and gas production plays a central role in Saskatchewan life. Greater public awareness of related environmental and human health impacts help lead to improvements that benefit us all.
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council/Corporate Mapping Project, the Michener Awards Foundation and the University of Regina Office of the Vice President-Research. The Corporate Mapping Project is a research and public engagement project investigating the power of the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada, led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC and Saskatchewan Offices) and Parkland Institute.
Alberta Energy Regulator (2018). Spills data tables.
Saskatchewan Energy and Resources (2019). Saskatchewan Upstream Oil and Gas IRIS Incident Report. Accessed Nov. 10, 2019 at https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/agriculture-natural-resources-and-industry/oil-and-gas/oil-and-gas-news-and-bulletins
Saskatchewan Environment (2019). Spills Search. Accessed Nov. 10, 2019 at http://environment.gov.sk.ca/saskspills/spills_srch.asp
Transportation Safety Board of Canada (2019). Pipeline Transportation Investigations and Reports. Accessed Nov. 10, 2019 at http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/pipeline/index.html
Transportation Safety Board of Canada (2019). Rail Transportation Investigations and Reports. Accessed Nov. 10, 2019 at http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rail/index.html
Author: Price of Oil Investigation
Student Researchers, University of Regina: Jennifer Ackerman, Madina Azizi, Janelle Blakley, Cory Coleman, Josh Diaz, Brenna Engel, Celine Grimard, Jared Gottselig, Rebbeca Marroquin, Katie Doke-Sawatzky, Michaela Solomon, Kyrsten Stringer, Caitlin Taylor
Faculty Researchers: Patricia W. Elliott, Assoc. Professor, University of Regina/First Nations University of Canada, with files from Michael Wrobel, Data Journalist, Price of Oil.
Price of Oil Series Producer: Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow