Thursday, August 12, 2010

Enbridge repeatedly restarted Michigan pipeline after it ruptured

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A member of Congress said on Aug. 4 that Enbridge Inc. violated federal regulations by dragging its feet on reporting a pipeline rupture that poured up to a million gallons of oil into a Michigan waterway, although the company alleges it met legal requirements.
Rep. Mark Schauer, a Michigan Democrat, said he was convinced, based on a preliminary NTSB investigation, that the massive leak began the night of July 25, although the Canadian company insists it didn't confirm the spill was occurring until about 11:30 a.m. the next morning.
Schauer said Enbridge began laying boom material to contain the oil, but then took two more hours to file a report with the National Response Center. Federal rules require pipeline operators to report releases of more than five gallons of hazardous liquids to the NRC "at the earliest practicable moment" following their discovery.
The National Transportation Safety Board believes the rupture may have occurred shortly before 6 p.m. on July 25, when Enbridge shut down the pipeline for maintenance, Schauer said. Alarms at Enbridge's control center signaled a drop in pressure then. Within hours, people in the Marshall, Mich., area were reporting strong gas odors to 911, increasing the likelihood the spill actually occurred on July 25, rather than on July 26 as contended by Enbridge.
Enbridge Inc. CEO Patrick Daniel said the company was "well within federal regulations with regard to reporting requirements."
Enbridge restarted the pipeline at 4:26 a.m. on July 26 and repeatedly turned it on and off for the next several hours because of spikes in readings, Schauer said. Each time the line was restarted, more oil would spew from the five-foot-long rupture or “smile” in the compromised pipeline. That would explain the exceptionally large volume spilled.
A company technician visited the site at 9:49 a.m. on July 26 but found nothing amiss, he said. Enbridge confirmed the leak only after being notified by Consumers Energy at 11:16 a.m., Schauer said.

1 comment:

  1. This is far from the first time this has happened. Kinder Morgan seems to have restarted a pipeline that ruptured in 2006 in the Susuin Marsh area of California. Since the NTSB did not get involved, no one said for sure in that case.