Spills of any type – whether produced water, drilling fluids, chemicals, gasoline or oil – are not acceptable. But they can and do happen despite having engineering and process safety procedures in place. Fewer spills mean less long-term environmental impacts, a safer workplace and increased productivity. Some common causes of spills include transferring materials between vessels, loading and unloading and overfilling of containers. Leaks from storage tanks, hoses, piping or other equipment, equipment failure and accidents such as motor vehicle incidents can also cause spills.

We work to proactively reduce the risk of spills by:

  • Applying rigour to our maintenance and process safety activities. For example, we identify safety critical equipment where the potential for risk of impact from spills is highest, based on the type of equipment and chemical.
  • Tracking spills across our operations and reporting key trends to management and operations teams to help identify the cause of spills and how to prevent them
  • Promoting awareness of spill prevention to help share learnings and improve planning before a job begins to identify and avoid potential spill hazards
  • Maintaining our readiness and capabilities to detect and respond appropriately to incidents when they happen

Spill incidents are reported and cleaned up with the goal of achieving no lasting impacts on the environment. We also investigate the cause of spills and undertake action to minimize the risk of future incidents. We’re taking steps to raise spill prevention awareness among our workers. We have spill committees across our operations to help identify spill trends and prevention opportunities. We also continue to raise awareness among our contractors and employees about how to prevent or reduce the number, size and extent of spills that occur in our operations through our Every Drop Counts program. The more our workers are aware of the impact of spills and how they can be prevented, the more effort they’ll make to work safely and take the time to address hazards that can cause spills. The regulations we operate under specify if a spill is reportable based on a combination of factors: the spill volume, the substance released and the location of the spill (i.e. off-lease or into water). When a spill is detected, Cenovus responds immediately, implementing containment and recovery plans while safeguarding our workers, the public and the environment.


In 2015, we continued to implement our programs aimed at proactively preventing spills and responding to them effectively when they occur. We also increased our efforts to understand spill trends by improving spill reporting and analysis provided to our management and operations teams. We worked to better integrate proactive spill management with our process safety and personal safety programs. Lastly, we completed a review of all the equipment we maintain in our Foster Creek and Christina Lake assets that expands upon our existing facility integrity efforts to inspect and maintain pipelines and other production equipment. Completing this work has enabled us to better rank our maintenance activities more comprehensively to focus on those critical pieces of equipment that pose the biggest risks in the event of failure.

Reportable spills – company wide

Reportable spills - company wide

Estimated reportable spill volume –
company wide

Estimated reportable spill volume - company wide

While the total number of reportable spills across the company increased by 11 percent in 2015, the number of reportable hydrocarbon spills decreased by 10 percent. The increase in number of non-hydrocarbon spills occurred in our conventional operations, while our oil sands operations spill count remained near 2014 levels. The volume of hydrocarbon spills across the company decreased by about 80 percent in 2015 compared with the previous year. The increase in volume of non-hydrocarbon spills in 2015 was due largely to three spills. We had a release of treated wastewater from one of our Christina Lake camp wastewater treatment plants which totaled 2,500 barrels. We also had two uncontrolled and unmonitored surface water releases at our Foster Creek and Pelican Lake operations from industrial runoff control systems, including ponds and berms, which totaled 2,500 barrels.

We are implementing a number of strategies such as targeted maintenance, worker awareness and process improvements to address the range of factors that caused the spills. The regulations we operate under specify if a spill is reportable based on a combination of factors: the spill volume, the substance released and the location of the spill (i.e. off-lease or into water). Historical values have been restated. Refer to data table and footnote WS-05.

Reportable spills – oil sands

Reportable spills - oil sands

Estimated reportable spill volume – oil sands

Estimated reportable spill volume - oil sands

The total number of spills in our oil sands operations remained near 2014 levels and the total volume of spills decreased by 9 percent. While the number of hydrocarbon spills increased from 2014, we had fewer large-volume hydrocarbon spills which resulted in a 98 percent reduction in hydrocarbon spill volume. We continue to look for ways to reduce the frequency and volume of products being spilled and to better understand the potential impacts associated with spills. Historical values have been restated. Refer to data table and footnote WS-05.