Feds block pipeline re-opening after Wisconsin oil spillOil won't be flowing through a 24-inch pipeline here anytime soon.
By: By Barry Adams, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
GRAND MARSH - Oil won't be flowing through a 24-inch pipeline here anytime soon.
A federal agency issued Tuesday a corrective action order against Enbridge Energy that prohibits the Houston-based company from operating the 470-mile pipeline until it submits a restart plan and it is approved.
The order, from the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, came after the pipeline ruptured Friday in rural Adams County and spilled 1,200 barrels of oil into a farm field.
"Pipelines operate safely across the country every single day. That's why accidents, like the one in Wisconsin, are absolutely unacceptable," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
No one was injured but two homeowners have been displaced. In addition, a section of Highway G has been closed to traffic as about 300 people from around the Midwest work to remove contaminated soil and replace a 40-foot section of pipe. The repairs are estimated to cost $2 million or more, according to a company official.
The spill occurred two years after a major spill in Michigan and is the third Enbridge spill in Wisconsin since 2007. It comes at a time when Enbridge is trying to add more pipeline to its system in the U.S. and Canada.
The cause of the break in the pipe has not been determined and is being studied at a third-party laboratory in Ohio, said Richard Adams, an Enbridge vice president.
Just before 3 p.m. Friday, employees detected a drop in pressure, shut down the pipeline, which was in service since 1998, and dispatched emergency crews.
Adams said the restart plan has been submitted and the replacement pipe underwent high-pressure testing Tuesday. The new section was expected to be installed by Wednesday but it's unclear when the company will get approval to move oil through the system.
"We've got a tough regulator and the regulator is reviewing what we're doing going forward," Adams said. "We reacted to this event appropriately ... and certainly we're going to review what happened."
In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Mich., and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of crude oil. An investigation found that Enbridge "failed to accurately assess the structural integrity of the pipeline," and found deficiencies with Enbridge's integrity management procedures, control room operations, leak detection and overall response plan.
The company had two spills in Wisconsin in 2007. A Clark County leak occurred from a 4-foot crack in a 24-inch underground line. A Feb. 2 break near Exeland in Rusk County occurred because of a construction accident in installing a new adjacent line.
Among the corrective issues for Enbridge for the Adams County spill will be the inspection of the entire interior length of the pipeline, which runs from Superior to a refinery in suburban Chicago. But for that test to occur, Enbridge needs federal approval because the test requires oil to be flowing through the pipeline, Adams said.
The pipeline typically carries 317,000 barrels of oil a day but the tests, which take a few days to complete, would require "substantially less" oil per day, Adams said. Results from the tests would also need to be analyzed before the pipeline returned to its pre-spill flow rate, Adams said.
As part of the corrective plan, Enbridge must also evaluate previous inspection results and bring in an independent evaluator to conduct an investigation of the company's integrity management plan, LaHood said.
The pipeline cuts a swath through primarily farm fields, some that are irrigated. A large sand and gravel pit is located near the spill site, which is also just north of the Oxford federal prison.
George Hall, 63, has lived in the area his entire life. Three acres of his land, currently used as a hayfield, are leased by Enbridge for pipelines that were installed in 1968, 1999 and 2007. Hall also lives about a mile from an Enbridge pumping station, which has been turned into a command center for the company as it tries to manage the spill and repairs.
Hall said Enbridge has treated him fairly and has been a "good neighbor" but he is surprised by the spill.
"It kind of worries me. It seems lately they've had their troubles," Hall said, while seated on his deck. "I've got neighbors who didn't like them coming across their property in the first place."
(c)2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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