29 July 2010

Enbridge Michigan Line Stays Shut as Oil Spill Spreads to Kalamazoo River


Enbridge Energy Partners LP, the Houston-based pipeline company, has crews working to clean up an oil spill from a pipeline in southern Michigan that spread from a creek to the Kalamazoo River, affecting birds and fish.

The leak on line 6B, part of Enbridge’s Lakehead System, was detected at about 9:30 a.m. yesterday when pressure on the line dropped, the company said.

An estimated 19,500 barrels of crude oil spilled into a creek near the company’s Marshall, Michigan, pump station before valves on either side of the leak were shut down, Enbridge Chief Executive Officer Patrick Daniel said on a conference call today.

“Oil entered the Tallmadge Creek and found its way to the Kalamazoo River,” Daniel said. “Teams have been working through the night and day working on the containment and clean up.”

Oil has already traveled about 16 miles (26 kilometers) downstream from the spill site, he said. The Kalamazoo River flows into Lake Michigan. The spill is “the second- or third- largest for the company,” Daniel said.

Line 6B is a 30-inch pipeline that can transport 190,000 barrels a day of light synthetics and heavy and medium crude oil to Sarnia, Ontario from Griffith, Indiana. The cause of the leak is under investigation, Daniel said.

Skimmers, Vacuum Trucks

Enbridge has crews using a temporary dike, containment booms, oil skimmers and vacuum trucks to gather oil and stop the spill spreading, he said.

The pipeline serves refineries in areas including Toledo, Ohio, Detroit and Sarnia, Daniel said. These include plants in Toledo run by BP Plc and Sunoco Inc., refineries in the Detroit area including Marathon Oil Corp.’s plant and Sarnia facilities run by Imperial Oil Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc., and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

“Line 6B is shut down and we can’t estimate when it will restart,” Daniel said. The company previously forecast the line would be repaired in time to be restarted tomorrow.

Enbridge’s Line 5 also serves the refineries and that remains in service, Daniel said.

So far, refineries served by the line remain unaffected by the supply disruption. Suncor’s spokesman Dany Laferriere said there was no significant impact on its operations at the company’s Sarnia plant.

“Marathon’s Detroit refinery does receive some supply from the Enbridge line,” said Robert Calmus, a company spokesman. “Operations are normal.”

Kristina Zimmer, a spokeswoman for Shell’s refinery in Sarnia, said the plant wasn’t expecting the pipeline disruption to affect operations.

Air and water quality in the affected area is being monitored and containment specialists trained to handle wildlife coated in oily residue are on site, Enbridge said.

“Enbridge will do what it takes to clean this up and to restore the natural beauty of this area,” Daniel said.

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