Friday, June 10, 2011

Enbridge says no coverup in its underestimate of N.W.T. pipeline spill

CALGARY, Alta. - Enbridge says it was not covering up the true size of a pipeline leak in the Northwest Territories, which leaked up to 1,500 barrels into the northern environment.

Enbridge had originally reported that only four barrels of oil leaked from its Norman Wells pipeline on May 9. But the company revised its estimate on June 6, saying 700 to 1,500 barrels had spilled.

The pipeline leak, about 50 kilometers south of the community of Wrigley, N.W.T., has area residents wondering why there was such a discrepancy in Enbridge's estimates.

In the company's first on-air interview since the leak, Enbridge executive Leon Zupan told CBC News that crews only discovered the true size of the spill after they started drilling down into the permafrost to obtain core samples.

"It's really only (been) in the last week to 10 days that we've been able to come up with the assessment," Zupan, who is vice-president of liquid pipelines operations, said on June 7.

"Our initial estimates could only be on what we see," he added. "It's somewhat unique for us because we're dealing with a situation where we have frozen ground. Normally, our pipelines run with warmer product that doesn't allow the frost to trap it in."

Enbridge officials say they don't know how the leak began, but they said the oil leaked out of a pinhole opening. Oil coming out of the small opening has, over time, created a spill about half a hectare in size, according to the company.

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