* Late Wednesday announcement, no PHMSA confirmation
* Enbridge says completed repairs of Illinois pipe leak
* Latest in series of conflicting comments
(Updates with latest plans for Friday restart)
By Joshua Schneyer
NEW YORK, Sept 15 The U.S. Pipeline and
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has agreed to restart
Friday of a key pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil to the
U.S. Midwest, a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
PHMSA could not be reached immediately to confirm the
Enbridge announcement on the restart of Line 6A, which was shut
last Thursday after a leak was discovered in Romeoville,
Illinois, near Chicago.
"We have consulted with PHMSA and agreed to a restart date
of Friday," Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said in a late
Wednesday email, which was confirmed in a subsequent telephone
The announcement was the latest in a series of conflicting
reports from government and Enbridge officials about when the
34-inch-(0.9-meter)-diameter line would restart.
While an Enbridge official confirmed that the
Calgary-based firm would not need to file a formal restart plan
before restarting the line, potentially avoiding a lengthy
delay, U.S. pipeline regulators also said they wouldn't allow
that until Enbridge had met "all safety requirements
Oil prices see-sawed through the session, first falling
sharply on a report that the U.S. Department of Transportation
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration could
give the go-ahead by Friday, but later paring some losses when
the agency said no date for a resumption had been set.
U.S. crude closed down 78 cents at $76.02 a barrel, about
$2 off its peak from Friday, as traders awaited more clarity on
restarting flows on the 670,000 barrel per day (bpd) line that
normally supplies over 5 percent of U.S. crude imports.
"There is no date set for the restart of Line 6A and no
approvals have been issued to Enbridge," a PHMSA spokesman
said. "When determining to authorize a restart, PHMSA conducts
a comprehensive review of an operator's pipeline system."
The company has not been asked to file a formal restart
plan, Enbridge Senior Vice President Art Meyer told reporters
on a conference call, but added that it was ultimately up to
PHMSA to determine when operations could resume. He said that
work on repairing the line was now complete.
A PHMSA spokeswoman earlier declined to comment on a
Bloomberg News report quoting Carl Griffis, Chicago-area senior
engineer at PHMSA, as saying the pipeline doesn't appear to
have "systemic" problems and should restart by the end of the
week -- sooner than many analysts had expected.
On Tuesday Enbridge finished replacing a stretch of the 6A
pipeline, which runs from Wisconsin to Indiana and leaked 6,100
barrels of crude oil through a small hole in Romeoville, about
30 miles (47 km) south of Chicago last Thursday. The cause of
the leak is still under investigation.
Not all analysts expect a quick restart at 6A after a
series of energy accidents this year increased pressure on
regulators. Deutsche Bank, in a research note on Wednesday,
said the 6A line may still be shut in for a month or more.
Enbridge shares fell 10 cents in Toronto on Wednesday to
C$51.99 per share.
TAKE A LOOK-Enbridge crude line shut [ID:nN10265810]
Factbox on refineries [ID:nN13195749]
Factbox on outage impact [ID:nN13190665]
Factbox on pipelines feeding the Midwest [ID:nN10275799]
History of Enbridge's pipeline spills [ID:nN10254087]
Graphic on Enbridge pipeline configuration:
ON THE HILL
Enbridge Chief Executive Patrick Daniel was set to be
grilled by U.S. lawmakers gathered before a Congressional
transportation committee Wednesday, after his company had two
major spills in less than two months on a pipeline system that
is four decades old.
The incident last week at 6A follows an earlier Enbridge
pipeline leak on Line 6B, another branch of the massive
Lakehead Pipeline System, which spilled 19,500 barrels of crude
into a river system in Michigan in late July.
That line has not yet been allowed by regulators to
restart. The spill in Michigan occurred on a pipeline that had
been subject to a Federal warning notice early this year,
ordering Enbridge to beef up safety measures against potential
The larger line, 6A, has not been subject to any such
notice, known as a corrective action order. That means it may
be allowed to restart without a lengthy federal approval
REGULATORS EYE NEW PIPELINE RULES
In prepared remarks ahead of the hearing in Washington, the
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari told
lawmakers he would propose new legislation to strengthen
pipeline safety following the recent Enbridge spills.
The DOT is working on new rules that will increase
regulatory oversight and improve guidance to pipeline
operators, Porcari plans to tell lawmakers.
Enbridge's leaks have come at a time when U.S. energy
industry regulators are under the spotlight following the
massive BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Another incident has put pipeline safety on the public
radar, after a natural gas line operated by Pacific Gas &
Electric (PCG.N) exploded in San Bruno, California last week,
killing at least four people and destroying homes.
Some Midwest refineries have already felt a squeeze from
the 6A pipeline outage, which is in its seventh day.
The shutdown caused Citgo's 167,000 bpd Lemont, Illinois
refinery to seek alternative sources of supply to maintain
The line typically supplies Chicago-region refineries whose
combined crude processing capacity tops 1 million barrels per
(Reporting by Joshua Schneyer in New York, Timothy Gardner and
Christopher Doering in Washington, and Erwin Seba, Kristen Hays
and Bruce Nichols in Houston; Editing by Richard Chang)