U.S. Blocks Pipeline Restart

Thursday, August 2, 2012 @ 06:08 PM gHale

Enbridge cannot start its Midwestern oil pipeline, after federal officials said last week’s spill on the line was “absolutely unacceptable.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ripped Enbridge over the leak of more than 1,000 barrels of crude oil in a field in Wisconsin, which shut its 318,000 barrel per day pipeline Friday.

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“I will soon meet with Enbridge’s leadership team, and they will need to demonstrate why they should be allowed to continue to operate this Wisconsin pipeline without either a significant overhaul or a complete replacement,” LaHood said.

“Accidents like the one in Wisconsin are absolutely unacceptable.”

Federal regulator Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a division of LaHood’s department, delivered a corrective order to Enbridge Tuesday, prohibiting it from restarting Line 14 until it can show regulators it has met safety standards.

In a statement, Enbridge said it plans to complete repairs to Line 14, and will submit plans to PHMSA to restart the line. The company said corrective orders are commonly issued after pipeline incidents.

LaHood said there was no guarantee the company would gain permission to restart the line anytime soon.

Corrective orders can delay resumption of pipeline operations, sometimes for weeks or months. When an Enbridge pipeline spilled crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, the line did not get approved for restart until six weeks later.

LaHood’s department ratcheted up its oversight of pipeline safety last year after a series of high profile spills gained national attention, including Enbridge’s Kalamazoo River incident.

Earlier this month, PHMSA issued a $3.7 million fine for the 2010 Michigan spill and a National Transportation Safety Board report accused Enbridge employees of ineptitude and acting like “Keystone Kops” during that accident.

Enbridge will now need to submit a restart plan for the entire 467-mile (752-km) pipeline.

The company will also need to test the ruptured pipe, evaluate previous inspections and commission an independent probe of its integrity management.

Line 14 is a 24-inch diameter pipe installed in 1998, making it a relatively new line. Enbridge said the line, which carries Canadian crude to refiners in the Midwest, had been inspected twice in the past five years.

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