August 25, 2010 / 9:01 PM / 7 years ago

Enbridge pipeline restart unclear as test delayed

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.

Earlier this week, Enbridge chopped its shippers’ nominations for September crude shipments on two of its other major U.S. pipelines, after companies scrambled to find other conduits, a practice known as apportionment.

The pipeline break spilled about 19,500 barrels of heavy Cold Lake crude into the Kalamazoo River system. Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday that the cleanup was progressing well, with more than 8 million gallons of oily water having been removed from the river.

Meanwhile, a U.S. congresswoman called on Wednesday for an expanded probe into problems with the pipeline, which crosses the United States-Canada border under the St. Clair River.

Michigan Representative Candice Miller said an upcoming congressional hearing into the Enbridge oil spill should include investigation of a dent in the pipeline discovered under the river a year ago. It has yet to be repaired.

“An accident similar to the event that occurred in Marshall would be simply catastrophic to our region,” Miller said in a statement. “Not only would it negatively affect our drinking water supply, but could possibly shut down one of the busiest shipping lanes in our nation and have a devastating impact on our economy.”

Enbridge executives said the dent was not a deep one and it posed no danger, especially under a self-imposed pressure restriction. There is no current schedule for making repairs, Wuori said.

Shares in Enbridge rose 41 Canadian cents to C$52.70 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its U.S. affiliate, Enbridge Energy Partners, fell 24 cents to $54.73 in New York.

Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington; editing by Rob Wilson

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