June 23, 2013, 11:58 a.m. ET
Enbridge Shuts Canadian Pipeline After Oil Spill
By CHIP CUMMINS
Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. ENB.T +0.21% said it had shut down and isolated a pipeline north of Cheecham, Alberta, after detecting a spill of some 750 barrels of light, synthetic crude oil.
The company said oil had been discovered on the ground at the site, about 42 miles southeast of Fort McMurray, and field personnel had been mobilized.
The company said it was still investigating the cause of the leak but said that it believed unusually heavy rain "may have resulted in ground movement" that impacted the pipeline. Enbridge said it had shut down all other Enbridge pipelines in the area.
Alberta has been swamped by some of the heaviest rain and floodwaters in years. The flooding has shut down large swaths of Calgary, Alberta's financial hub, displacing tens of thousands of residents.
The region around Cheecham is a major center of oil-sands production, and it wasn't immediately clear what volumes of oil have been affected by the various Enbridge pipelines shutdowns. A spokesman for Enbridge said it wasn't disclosing how much oil has been affected by the shutdowns and likely wouldn't until it had "a material effect on deliveries, if that occurs."
Enbridge said it had sent first responders, who had installed oil-cleanup booms. The spill, first detected early Sunday, had been contained at the site "and the local water bodies." The company said there have been no reports of harm to wildlife.
Enbridge said the affected line, Line 37, was constructed in 2006 and is a 12-inch-diameter pipeline that is a little more than 10 miles long, connecting facilities in the Long Lake area to Cheecham.
The spilled oil is a light, low-sulphur blend that several oil-sands producers make synthetically by processing the heavy bitumen crude that they extract from the area's oil-sands deposits.
The spill is the latest in a string of significant crude spills in Canada, and it comes at a time when the industry is on the defensive over its safety record as North American crude production soars. Amid the boom, pipeline companies have been proposing new lines and projects that would repurpose or reverse the flow of existing oil and natural-gas lines.
The spate of Canadian spills also comes as the U.S. weighs approval of TransCanada Corp.'s TRP.T -0.97% Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which envisions carrying large volumes of heavy oil-sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Many environmental groups have opposed the line because of worry over oil spills.
Enbridge is also facing mounting environmental opposition in Canada for its Northern Gateway project—a plan to build a pipeline from Alberta, across the Rocky Mountains, to the British Columbia coast.
Pipeline companies, including Enbridge and TransCanada, and industry lobby groups have defended their safety record. Still, both the industry and Alberta have responded to the recent spate of spills, promising new safety guidelines and provincial scrutiny. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association earlier this month released new guidelines for bolstering pipeline safety.
Earlier this month, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP KMP -1.03% reported a small leak on its Trans Mountain pipeline, which ships crude from Alberta through British Columbia. The same week, Apache Corp. APA +0.13% disclosed a spill in northern Alberta that released 2.5 million gallons of contaminated water, affecting an area of about 104 acres.
And last Sunday, a Canadian unit of U.S.-owned pipeline company Plains All American Pipeline LP PAA -2.56% shut down a pipeline after a spill of approximately 950 barrels of oil in northwestern Alberta, affected an area of roughly 3.5 acres about 55 miles north of Manning, Alberta.
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Well it has to be the guiding logic...!