Oil spill source found on Enbridge's Lakehead pipeline in Michigan, investigation commences

By Phaedra Friend Troy

A 6.5-foot rip in the Line 6B pipeline of Enbridge Energy Partner’s (NYSE: EEP) Lakehead System has been identified as the source of the oil spill in Michigan.

On August 6, a 50-foot section containing the busted pipeline has been removed for further examination by regulatory agencies.

The damaged pipeline was cut in two and shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) labs in Virginia.

“We now have about 50 feet of pipe exposed on either side of the removed section, and under the guidance of the Office of Pipeline Safety we are examining those two sections inch-by-inch and taking great care in the examination of the pipe before we weld the new pipe section into place,” said Steve Wuori, an executive with Enbridge Energy Partners.

The NTSB reported that the length of the rupture “extends approximately 6 1/2 feet longitudinally with the widest portion of the opening measuring 4 1/2 inches.”

The agency added that the tear in the pipeline happened about 25 feet from the upstream joint in a section of pipe that measured 40 feet in length.

Enbridge reported that welding teams began installing the replacement section of pipeline on August 7.

“In the ditch the carrier pipe ends are now being prepared to receive the replacement section, and that of course is now being done under the direction of the Office of Pipeline Safety who is the regulator,” said Wuori.

Working closely with regulatory groups to get the pipeline back online safely, the company has not identified when it hopes to have the pipeline restarted.

Refineries in the area have been forced to reduce thruput.

During a routine shut-down on July 25, the Line 6B pipeline experienced a number of low pressure alarms near the Marshall City Pump station, reported the NTSB. The pipeline leak was discovered the next morning on July 26.

A section of the massive Lakehead System, the Line 6B pipeline spilled about 19,500 barrels of crude oil and was shut-down to stop the spill. Oil leaked into a tributary and entered the Kalamazoo River.

Oil spill clean-up efforts continue along the Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where the accident occurred. Both sheen removal and shore clean-up are a part of the process.

More than 140,000 feet of absorbent and containment boom has been deployed to help with the oil spill clean-up process.

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