Enbridge stops major leak on Canada-U.S. oil pipeline

Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:19pm EDT
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By Erwin Seba and Joshua Schneyer

HOUSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc said on Friday it has stopped an oil spill from its 6A pipeline, which delivers up to a third of Canada's crude oil exports to the United States, but gave no estimate on when the key export line may resume operations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said earlier that the pipeline was spewing oil at a rate of between 200 and 600 barrels per hour -- the equivalent of up to 14,400 barrels day, a large spill by U.S. pipeline standards.

The leak was discovered around noon on Thursday at a stretch of pipeline in Romeoville, Illinois, about 30 miles southwest of Chicago.

"The leaking has stopped," said Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer.

A clean-up crew has begun excavating the buried pipeline to remove the oil, Springer said. It was too early to know the magnitude of the spill or when the line could be repaired, he added.

The latest incident comes less than two months after a smaller Enbridge line on the same Lakehead pipeline system was shut after spilling nearly 20,000 barrels in Michigan. Calgary-based Enbridge has still not been allowed to restart that line.

U.S. oil prices surged $2.20 or nearly 3 percent, and the spread between the first- and second-month oil futures contracts narrowed by $1, as the leak on the 467-mile line from Superior, Wisconsin to Griffith, Indiana threatened to slash oil supplies to the industrial U.S. Midwest region.

The price of crude grades traded in Canada fell, since producers in the oil exporting country will have fewer options to ship their crude. [ID:nN09207996] The severity and rapid succession of spills on the aging Enbridge pipeline system -- which is more than three decades old -- could mean a lasting disruption in crude supplies. U.S. oil safety regulators are already on edge over the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.   Continued...