Enbridge set to replace pipe on Michigan line

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc could begin replacing a section of damaged Michigan pipeline as early as Monday evening, but it still has no estimate on when it could restart the line, which ruptured last month and spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil.

Cleanup workers prepare to secure absorbent booms on the Kalamazoo river after an oil pipeline leaked oil into the river near Marshall, Michigan July 31, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Enbridge removed a 50-foot section of the line last Friday, shipping it to regulators in Washington D.C., who will examine a gash nearly 5-feet long in the pipe to determine the cause of the rupture.

The company is ready to replace the damaged section but is far from restarting shipments on the line, which normally carries 190,000 barrels of Canadian crude per day to refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario.

“We could be ready as early as this evening to start lowering that new section in to start that repair,” Pat Daniel, Enbridge’s chief executive, said on a conference call. “I can’t give an estimate, at this point, how long the repair will take.”

Once the pipe is replaced, Enbridge will have to file a restart plan with regulators before Line 6B can be returned to service, initially at lower than normal pressure.

The timing of the restart “dependent entirely on the regulators’ acceptance of return to service plan,” Daniel said.

The pipeline broke open on July 26 near Marshall, Michigan, spilling crude into the Kalamazoo River system, forcing a cleanup effort involving more than 800 workers and 105,000 feet of containment and absorbent boom.

The spill represents one of the largest pipeline leaks in recent U.S. history. It arguably gained increased profile against the backdrop of the much bigger BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Enbridge shares fell 10 Canadian cents to C$51.62 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday. The shares have fallen 0.5 percent since the July 26 spill while the exchange’s benchmark index has climbed 0.5 percent over that span.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson