By ALISON SIDER
Crews worked to clean up some 2,500 bbl of crude that spilled over the weekend at an oil storage terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma, the third biggest crude spill seen in the US this year.
The leak, at an Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline connected to one of the more than 85 tanks at Enbridge's Cushing storage facility, comes as many pipeline companies seek to expand their networks to accommodate growing energy production in North America. At least one major project, the Keystone XL pipeline proposal to connect Alberta's oil sands with Texas refineries, is facing significant backlash from environmentalists concerned about leaks.
The Enbridge spill took place at a crude gathering site. It follows the rupture in March of Exxon Mobil's Pegasus pipeline, which spilled an estimated 5,000 bbl of heavy Canadian crude into a Mayflower neighborhood. Earlier that month, more than 5,000 bbl of oil leaked from a Lion Oil Trading & Transportation storage tank in Magnolia, with some flowing into a bayou.
Also in March, a Chevron Corp. pipeline leaked an estimated 600 bbl of diesel near a freshwater lake in Utah's Willard Bay State Park. And an inactive Marathon Petroleum pipeline leaked about 500 bbl of diesel in Indianapolis earlier this month.
The recent spills could chip away at the local and regulatory support needed by pipeline companies to get projects approved, said Amy Myers Jaffe, Executive Director of energy and sustainability at University California, Davis, Graduate School of Management. "The more accidents there are, the more resistance you're going to see," she said.
Enbridge said it is stepping up its inspection and monitoring systems to meet higher expectations of governments, regulators, landowners and the public. "All the expansion activity we're undertaking is happening against a backdrop of heightened public awareness," a company spokesman said in an email.
Enbridge said the Cushing spill was isolated and that oil didn't make it past containment systems. By Monday, 2,400 bbl of oil and water had been recovered, the company said.
Brigham McCown, a former deputy administrator of the United States Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), said the spill proves safety measures at facilities are working. Earlier this year, PHMSA proposed a $78,700 fine against Enbridge for problems with tank inspection procedures and corrosion control on some tanks in Cushing. Enbridge spokesman Terry Larson said those issues were unrelated to the recent spill.Dow Jones Newswires