Enbridge pipeline restart unclear as test delayed

Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:25pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - An Enbridge Inc pipeline that ruptured in Michigan more than a month ago won't resume oil shipments until at least next week, now that a key pressure test on the damaged section has been delayed until Monday.

The line, which ruptured on July 26, was expected to be put through a hydrostatic test early this week after a series of excavations to judge its safety. Regulators require the results of the test to rule on Enbridge's plan to restart oil flows.

One of the dig sites near the rupture, south of Marshall, Michigan, is in a pond and it has taken longer than expected to pump out water, forcing the delay in testing, Enbridge Vice-President Steve Wuori said on Wednesday.

The company requires a go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to perform the test, which will take about eight hours.

"As soon as the dig results are all communicated to PHMSA, that's when we would expect the approval to go ahead and do the pressure test," Wuori told reports during a conference call.

The test involves pumping water through the section at high pressure to gauge the integrity of the pipe.

A PHMSA spokeswoman said the regulator had nothing to report on Enbridge's plan to restart the pipeline, leaving the timing of resuming the flow of oil up in the air.

The outage of the 190,000 barrel a day Line 6B, which extends to Sarnia, Ontario, from Griffith, Indiana, has weakened prices for Canada heavy crude, which normally flows through the line to refineries in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and southern Ontario.   Continued...