Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at EnergyAspects told CNBC that one of the biggest problems for landlocked Alberta has been a lack of pipelines. Pipeline development has met fierce opposition from environmental activists, and a spill like Nexen's just provides ammunition, Sen explained.
"It just makes it even harder to gain regulatory approval," she said.
"This leak is...a good reminder that Alberta has a long way to go to address its pipeline problems and that communities have good reasons to fear having more built. ," Mike Hudema, a representative of Greenpeace's Climate and Energy team said in a press release.
While Albertan Premier Rachel Notley said the leak was "very troubling," she added that it didn't shake the conclusion that pipelines are the safest way to move oil, according to Reuters.
Sen said she was optimistic about the outlook for the oil sands into 2016, when seven projects will be coming online. Canada's will be one of the few countries with an oil sector will see year-on-year growth in 2016, Sen said.
The real pain from project deferrals , she explained, will start to be felt in 2017.
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify the production processes used in Alberta's oil industry.