Not any more

Work to replace damaged Enbridge pipeline could begin by weekend

In Canada on August 6, 2010 at 09:07

Enbridge Inc. could start replacing the damaged section of pipe responsible for an oil leak on its southern mainline in Michigan as early as this weekend, company officials said Thursday.

According to company president Pat Daniel and senior vice-president Steve Wuori, the site of the break has been excavated and various U.S. government agencies will begin inspecting the damaged section of pipe starting on Friday morning. Pending the outcome of those initial examinations, the pipe section will be cut out and sent to Washington, D.C., for further testing and analysis.

"It could be as early as late tomorrow," Daniel said from Marshall, Mich.

However, the Enbridge CEO said he still has "no idea" when the line, which ships about 190,000 barrels per day of Canadian oilsands production to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and southern Ontario, will be reopened.

In addition to the National Transportation Safety Board, the pipe break has to be inspected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of Michigan and Enbridge’s own inspection crews before the ruptured section will be sheared with hydraulic cutters and lifted out of the ground.

Susan Hedman, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said the organization continues to investigate Enbridge for possible infractions or negligence related to the July 26 rupture that spilled about 18,000 barrels into the fast-moving Kalamazoo River.

Nonetheless, American officials reported good progress on the cleanup efforts and praised the Calgary-based pipeline operator for keeping local residents engaged in the cleanup process.

On Thursday the EPA formally approved Enbridge’s work plan for removing the damaged pipe after initially rejecting it early this week. "Operations are moving along, we’re moving from crisis to clean up slowly, day by day," said Mark Durno, the EPA’s deputy on-site commander.

Daniel said the company has been approached by three homeowners regarding Enbridge’s offer to buy up to 200 houses in the spill area which he said would remain open for at least a year after the cleanup is complete.

"We will not allow them (residents) to be disadvantaged in any way," Daniel said. "We’re going to clean this river and restore it to the way it was . . . We will compensate for all damages associated with this spill."

Enbridge’s efforts may be too late to keep them out of court. U.S. news sources were reporting Thursday that the company faces a federal class action lawsuit for unspecified damages filed by Michigan residents affected by the spill.

And U.S. news outlets also report the Enbridge spill will be the subject next month of a special hearing of a House of Representatives committee looking into the causes of the spill.

Canadian pipeline operators are facing increased public scrutiny over the reliability and safety of big new pipelines to the U.S. in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Enbridge’s rupture in Michigan.

On Thursday, Enbridge rival TransCanada Corp. confirmed that it has reduced the planned operating pressure of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast in response to safety concerns prompted in part by public pressure over the spills. The company had originally applied to U.S. authorities to run the line at higher operating pressure to account for stronger steel to be used in constructing the $7-billion project.

The company said the move would reduce Keystone’s shipping capacity by almost 25 per cent, to 700,000 barrels per day when it is fully built from a planned design rate of about 900,000.

The pipeline has faced stiff opposition from environmental groups and government officials who have complained that Alberta’s oilsands production is more carbon intensive and produces higher emissions than conventional crude oil.

Opponents won a partial victory late last month after the U.S. State Department delayed a decision to approve the pipeline and grant a presidential permit by at least 90 days, until the end of the year.

"As pleased as we are to see TransCanada abandoning its plan to pump oil at dangerous pressures, this move doesn’t erase the industry’s lousy accident and safety record," said Jim Lyon, vice president of the Washington-based National Wildlife Federation in a statement posted to the group’s website. "We should not be duped by TransCanada. They will do everything to maximize profit at the expense of safety."

Enbridge shares rose 36 cents on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday to close at $51.76 while TransCanada’s dipped 12 cents to $36.69.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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