Enbridge restores one of three Canadian pipelines linked to crude spill


CALGARY -- Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge said it restored service to one of three major pipelines it shut down over the weekend, and was still working to repair and return to service a 100,000 bpd line that leaked crude oil.

The company's Line 37 pipeline has been shut down since it was discovered to have spilled some 750 bbl of light, synthetic crude oil for reasons still under investigation. The pipeline, which serves Cnooc affiliate Nexen's Long Lake oil sands facility, is located about two km north of Enbridge's Cheecham Terminal nearly 70 km southeast of Ft. McMurray, Alberta.

A spokesperson for Nexen said the company's Long Lake operations were running at reduced rates due to the pipeline shut down, but wouldn't provide specific numbers.

Suncor Energy also said it has reduced production at its Fort McMurray area operations due to Enbridge's precautionary pipeline shutdowns.

"Our ability to move product out of the region has been restricted and we've temporarily slowed production at our oil sands operations," Steve Williams, Suncor CEO, said in a statement released.

Suncor said that it doesn't expect the cutbacks to impact its annual production targets.

Enbridge said it believed unusually heavy rain "may have resulted in ground movement" that impacted the pipeline. Alberta has been swamped by some of the heaviest rain and floodwaters in years, shutting down the core of Calgary, Alberta's financial hub, located in southern Alberta.

Two other major Enbridge oil pipelines that aren't connected to Line 37 also were shut down "as a precaution due to some similar conditions in the region to ensure their integrity," a spokesman said in an email. Enbridge said it had successful restarted one of those, the 345,000 barrels per day capacity Athabasca Pipeline, also called Line 19.

Enbridge said "a portion" of the Line 37 spill leached into a small creek and a lake but that there were no reports of injuries to people or harm to wildlife. The leak involved 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.

It 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.

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