VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A bomb has damaged a natural gas pipeline in northeastern British Columbia, police said on Thursday, describing the attack as the second of its kind in the same area in a week.
Energy producer EnCana Corp later said it had stopped a small leak at a “field facility” about 50 km southeast of the town of Dawson Creek, and that the incident was being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The RCMP said in a statement it was an explosion that “appears to be a deliberate act that left a crater in the ground under the pipeline that carries sour gas.”
EnCana, Canada’s biggest independent oil and gas producer, has increased security at its operations in the region.
Police said the incident involved a pipeline that was in the same area as a bombing of an EnCana-owned pipeline on Saturday.
“This is the second incident this week in the same area and it appears the two events are related,” police said in a statement.
Both were in a remote area far from the Alberta border.
EnCana spokesman Alan Boras told reporters that company workers noticed the leak at the intersection of two pipelines on Thursday morning and the line was immediately shut down.
“Because of the events the past weekend the RCMP were notified,” Boras said. “It was stopped almost immediately ... The facility was shut in. There was no danger to the public.”
Police initially said the explosion happened late Wednesday or early Thursday, but later said it was not clear when the blast happened.
Police were already investigating if the weekend explosion was linked to a letter sent to media in the Dawson Creek area last week that warned the energy industry to leave northern British Columbia. The letter did not make specific threats.
While it is already known for big conventional natural gas fields, remote northeastern British Columbia has become Canada’s hottest region for new exploration as companies look to exploit massive reserves found trapped in the region’s shale deposits and other unconventional fields.
The RCMP’s anti-terrorism unit has joined the investigation, but police believe the incident is local in nature.
A newspaper in Dawson Creek said the letter complained of “crazy expansion of deadly gas wells in our homelands” and that “we will no longer negotiate with terrorists”.
Production of sour natural gas has long been controversial in northern British Columbia and neighboring Alberta. It contains toxic hydrogen sulfide which is removed at a processing plant before the gas is shipped to market.
Serious vandalism on Canadian oil and gas installations is rare. However in 2000, Canadian commune leader and environmental activist Wiebo Ludwig was sentenced to 28 months in jail for two gas-well bombings and other vandalism near Beaverlodge, Alberta, 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Edmonton.
Police do not believe there is a link between the explosions and the theft in July of about 170 kg (375 pounds) of dynamite from a storage facility in Chetwynd, British Columbia, about 100 km (65 miles) west of Dawson Creek.
Investigators have not said what explosive material was used in the pipeline incidents. The first explosion left a six-foot hole in the ground and ripped insulation material off the line.
Boras said the most recent incident was on a line carrying between 40 million and 50 million cubic feet of gas a day. The first bombing was on a line carrying 60 million cubic feet per day. The company says its processing facilities in the region are operating normally.
Reporting Allan Dowd and Scott Haggett, Editing by Peter Galloway