Enbridge shuts oil pipeline after leak; reroutes supply

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Enbridge Energy Partners LP EEP.N shut down one leg of the main pipeline delivering Canadian crude to the United States after discovering a leak, but said it was rerouting supplies via other lines.

Enbridge, which operates crude oil and natural gas transportation systems in the United States, said it had shut down Line 2b of the Enbridge Lakehead Pipeline System. Line 2b has a capacity of 440,000 barrels per day, equivalent to about one-quarter the total throughput on Lakehead.

It said it was cleaning up a leak it had discovered late on Friday in North Dakota. An initial spill estimate of about 3,000 barrels, or 126,000 gallons, of light crude oil was reported to federal and state regulatory authorities.

While damaged pipelines can usually be repaired relatively quickly, the regulatory issues surrounding oil spills can prove trickier to resolve. The Enbridge spill is around half the size of the biggest ever spill on Alaska’s sensitive North Slope, in 2006, which landed operator BP with fines and probation.

The leak was located in Pembina County, North Dakota on Friday night, and the pipeline was immediately shut down, Enbridge said, adding that water and wildlife had not been affected.

The cause of the leak is under investigation, it said.

Line 2b runs from Cromer, Manitoba, to Superior, Wisconsin. The segment of Line 2b between Cromer and Clearbrook, Minn. likely will remain out of service through Monday, it said.

The 1,900-mile Lakehead System, the U.S. portion of the world’s longest petroleum pipeline running from the big oil fields in Western Canada as far south as Oklahoma, serves around two-thirds of the refinery demand in Minnesota and the greater Chicago area, as well as Ontario.

With recent expansions, it also pumps crude as far as Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the benchmark U.S. crude oil futures contract. It carries about 70 percent of all the Western Canada crude that’s exported to the United States.

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mt=5 Oil that was designated for transportation on Line 2b is being moved on other Enbridge pipelines that parallel Line 2b until service is restored on that pipeline, Enbridge said.

Line 2b, from Clearbrook to Superior, Wisc., is continuing to move volumes sourced from Enbridge’s North Dakota System as well as re-routed volumes from upstream of Cromer on Line 2b, it said.

Reporting by Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Bernard Orr