CALGARY, Alberta - Refineries in the U.S. upper Midwest and southern Canada scrambled to secure alternative crude supplies on Wednesday as Enbridge Inc was forced to rework some of its cleanup plans for the company's ruptured pipeline in Michigan.
The Calgary-based company, whose 190,000 barrel a day pipeline ruptured nine days ago, spilling heavy crude into the Kalamazoo River system, still had no estimate for a restart.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a host of Enbridge's work plans for such things as health and safety, pipeline repair, and waste treatment and disposal, but rejected its sampling and analysis strategy for a second time.
Susan Hedman, the EPA's regional administrator, gave no specific reasons for why it was sent it back, saying there were numerous aspects of the complex plan that required attention.
The snag should not delay the pipeline's eventual return to service, Enbridge Chief Executive Pat Daniel said.
"The work plans, as far as I know, would not have an impact on the start-up," he told reporters at a news conference in Marshall, Michigan, near the rupture. "We would expect to fully comply with the EPA work plans well in advance of any start-up of the pipeline."
The incident, which came against the backdrop of the much more devastating BP Plc Gulf of Mexico spill, prompted Enbridge to offer to buy homes in the affected area. It has made no purchases since announcing the offer on Tuesday.
Enbridge has set up a claims center in Battle Creek, Michigan, and was about to open one in Marshall, to reimburse residents for lost property and hindered livelihoods.
The company carries about 2 million barrels of Canadian crude oil to the U.S. Midwest, Midcontinent and into southern Ontario each day on its expansive network of pipelines.
Its shares were unchanged at C$51.40 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday, down about 1 percent since the rupture. Its U.S. affiliate, Enbridge Energy Partners, rose 78 cents to $56.06 in New York. That stock is down nearly 6 percent in the past nine days.
Daniel declined to estimate the eventual impact of the incident on Enbridge's bottom line.
The affected line, called Line 6B, serves refineries in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and southern Ontario, which process more than 700,000 barrels a day.
Refiners look for oil options
Refiners' production has been hampered only minimally so far, but all have said they had been forced to rearrange their plans to secure feedstock from other sources.
United Refining said Wednesday it has cut rates at its 70,000 bpd plant in Warren, Pennsylvania, due to the outage. That followed word a day earlier that output at the 127,500 bpd Toledo, Ohio, refinery, owned by BP and Husky Energy Inc, was slightly lower.
Other pipelines into the Sarnia, Ontario, area, where Imperial Oil Ltd, Suncor Energy Inc and Royal Dutch Shell run plants, include Enbridge's 490,000 bpd Line 5 from Superior, Wisconsin, and 240,000 bpd Line 9 from Montreal.
"In some cases there are alternative crudes that can run in refineries, and they're sourcing those," Steve Wuori, president of Enbridge's liquids pipelines division, said.
"It's something that's important for us as well as the shippers to maintain continual contact on and try to optimize the schedules while this line is down."
Meanwhile, Representative Mark Schauer, whose congressional district includes the spill area, said Enbridge should be held accountable for an apparent violation of federal standards that require companies to report spills right after discovery.
Schauer said an accident timeline from federal safety inspectors shows residents had begun reporting a smell the night of July 25, just after Enbridge shut the line for maintenance. It was seven hours after it restarted the pipeline that local utility works reported a pool of oil, he said.
Enbridge sent out a boom to contain the spill about 11:30 a.m. on July 26, safety inspectors say, two hours before a report was filed with the U.S. National Response Center, he said.
"The pipeline was leaking for hours, hours before it was reported," Schauer told reporters. "It calls into question the company's ability to manage its pipeline."
Daniel rejected the notion that Enbridge failed to meet U.S. reporting standards, and said the company would even help devise improvements to the system if asked.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki in Detroit and Janet McGurty in New York; editing by Rob Wilson)