Spills are closely associated with having a safer workplace with fewer incidents, which can lead to increased productivity while leaving fewer long-term environmental impacts. Spills can and do happen despite having engineering controls and safety procedures in place. Our goal is to have zero significant spills. 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.

The table below provides an overview of our goal related to spills and provides recent examples of how we’re working towards the goal. Learn more in this section about how we’re preventing spills at our operations.

Our goal Our recent performance examples

To improve spill prevention and respond effectively when spills occur.

  • Cenovus’s operations leadership set corporate targets for reportable spill reductions and managed them throughout the year. This resulted in both a reduction in the count and volume of spills
  • Spill reporting was transitioned to Cenovus’s Process Safety team to analyze cause-based trends to help anticipate and prevent spills
  • We made improvements to surface water and berm integrity management
  • We completed gap assessments for high-impact pipelines to verify effectiveness of leak detection and mitigation strategies. Additional operator training was implemented to increase rigour around early detection and response to possible pipeline releases

We work to proactively reduce the risk of spills through:

  • Maintenance and process safety: We apply 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. We’re continuously working to integrate proactive spill management with our process safety and personal safety programs.
  • Tracking: We track spills across our operations and report key trends to management and operations teams to help identify the cause of spills and how to prevent them. We continually work to better understand spill trends by improving spill reporting and analysis where possible.
  • Awareness: We promote awareness of spill prevention to help share learnings and improve planning before a job begins to identify and avoid potential spill hazards. We also work to raise spill prevention awareness among workers and contractors to prevent or reduce the number, size and extent of spills that occur in our operations. We actively engage with operations groups to help identify spill trends and prevention opportunities.

When spills do occur, they 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. 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

The total number of reportable spills across the company decreased by 19 percent in 2016, and the number of reportable hydrocarbon spills decreased by 25 percent. Non-hydrocarbon spill volume decreased in both our conventional and oil sands assets, while the year over year decline in hydrocarbon spill volume primarily reflects lower volumes in our conventional operations. Some data prior to 2016 has been restated to reflect revised classification of commodities included in the hydrocarbon spill category. Restated values do not materially affect Cenovus-wide total spill count and Cenovus-wide total spill volume (see footnote SP-02 and SP-03).

Reportable spills – oil sands

Reportable spills - oil sands

Estimated reportable spill volume – oil sands

Estimated reportable spill volume - oil sands

Both the total number of reportable spills and total spill volume at our oil sands operations decreased in 2016, primarily due to a decrease in non-hydrocarbon spills. While the number of hydrocarbon spills at our oil sands assets marginally improved, hydrocarbon spill volumes decreased by 30 percent. Some data prior to 2016 has been restated to reflect revised classification of commodities included in the hydrocarbon spill category. Restated values did not result in changes to historical values for oil sands total spill count and oil sands total spill volume (see footnote SP-02 and SP-03).