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More than two months after bitumen mixed with water started seeping from its Primrose oil sands project, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. mobilized Wednesday to deal with the real out-of-control gusher — misinformation.
After saying little publicly about the incident, involving seepages that started on May 20, Canadian Natural issued an early morning news release, held an analyst call and then interviews with the media to confirm the leaks have been contained and the spill is being cleaned up.
No one got hurt, the company said, but 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians were killed and that two beavers, two birds and two muskrats are being cared for prior to being returned to their natural environment. So far, 6,300 barrels of bitumen emulsion have been collected, while seepage from four locations has declined to fewer than 20 barrels per day.
Meanwhile, the company cut its forecast for 2014 production from the project to 100,000-110,000 barrels per day, about 10,000 b/d lower than targeted.
President Steve Laut was apologetic about not being more communicative sooner about the event, explaining the company changed its approach when the situation became critical because some bitumen started seeping into a water body, and promised to do better in the future.
“Our belief … was that all the information was provided to the energy regulator and that information was posted as it came to light on the website,” he said in an interview.
“We realized that … there have been a lot of gaps in the information presented, and a lot of interpretation of the facts that have been presented, and some misinformation and misinterpretation of the facts, and so we realized that we had to get out there … and let the public know where we are on this.”
Truth is, the usually media-shy company was getting thrashed.
The incident made negative headlines around the world, following the same pattern as the Syncrude duck death drama five years ago, and other incidents milked by oil sands opponents to influence policy on greenhouse gas emissions.
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