Enbridge to replace leaky Wisconsin oil pipeline Monday

Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:05pm EDT
 
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By Brendan O'Brien

GRAND MARSH, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Canada's Enbridge Inc prepared on Sunday to replace part of a pipeline that leaked more than 1,000 barrels of oil in a Wisconsin field, shutting down a key conduit from Canada and provoking fresh ire from Washington.

The spill on Friday is the latest in a series of incidents that threaten to damage the reputation of a company that launched its most ambitious expansion program ever just two months ago. It came almost two years to the day after a ruptured Enbridge line fouled part of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

On Sunday, Enbridge said it tentatively planned to install a new section of pipe on Monday, July 30, although it was still unable to say when the 318,000 barrels-per-day Line 14 would resume service or what had caused the spill, which blackened a small field but did not appear to cause major damage.

"The line has been uncovered to begin removing the failed section and send it to a metallurgical lab for examination," U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) spokesman Damon Hill said. A PHMSA official said that all of the pooled oil had been cleaned up.

The closure of the line, which transports mainly light crude to Chicago-area refineries, had little impact on U.S. oil futures, which dipped 5 cents to $90.08 a barrel in late Sunday trade. But a prolonged closure could support domestic prices in the cash market if regulators order additional work.

Although the spill appeared to be relatively small and quickly contained, it comes at a delicate time for Enbridge, which suffered another leak in Alberta, Canada, a month ago and endured a scathing report from U.S. safety regulators over its handling of the Michigan incident in 2010, with employees likened to the "Keystone Kops" for their bungled response.

"Enbridge is fast becoming to the Midwest what BP was to the Gulf of Mexico, posing troubling risks to the environment," U.S. Representative Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

"The company must be forthcoming about this entire incident, and deserves a top-to-bottom review of their safety culture, procedures and standards," said Markey, an outspoken critic of increasing imports of Canada's heavy oil sands crude.   Continued...