(Adds detail, executive comment on pipeline start; changes dateline from CALGARY)
By Allison Martell
TORONTO, April 3 (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc, Canada’s largest pipeline company, said on Thursday it was targeting May 1 for the start-up of its expanded Line 6B, which carries crude oil from Griffith, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario.
The company’s $1.6 billion Line 6B replacement program will raise the capacity of the pipe to 500,000 barrels per day from 240,000, bringing additional supplies of Canadian crude to refineries in Michigan, Ohio and eastern Canada.
The company had an initial April 1 start-up date, with the delay coming as Enbridge dealt with technical issues with the existing pipe while filling the new line with oil.
“What we’re having to do, because we’re replacing line 6B, is we have to go through a program of line-filling the new pipes and then purging the old pipes and they’ll be purged with nitrogen,” Guy Jarvis, president of Enbridge’s liquids pipelines division, told Reuters following a speech to a Toronto investment symposium.
“That exercise of filling and purging is taking a bit longer than we had hoped. We hope to have that cleared up and be ready to go by no later than May 1st.”
The line has been operating below capacity since the summer of 2010, when it ruptured and spilled nearly 20,000 barrels of crude into a Michigan river system.
It was at the time the largest on-shore oil spill in U.S. history and the company’s response to the incident led the chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to say Enbridge employees “performed like Keystone Kops.”
The company moved to boost spending on safety inspections and increase maintenance following the disaster, which prompted the replacement of Line 6B’s existing pipeline.
Enbridge shares were down 54 Canadian cents to C$50.70 by late afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Writing by Scott Haggett; Editing by Leslie Adler and Paul Simao