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Enbridge Prepares to Start Crude Pipeline 6A Tomorrow

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Enbridge Energy Partners LP said it is preparing start tomorrow its largest oil pipeline linking Canada and refineries in the U.S. Midwest, after repairing a leak in Romeoville, Illinois.

“We have fulfilled the information requirements from PHMSA, and are preparing to restart Line 6A on Friday,” said Terri Larson, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mail late yesterday.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration must be satisfied that the company’s repair and follow-up plans ensure the safety of the community and the environment before Enbridge is allowed to restart the line, Damon Hill, a spokesman for the administration, said in an e-mail earlier yesterday.

“There is no date set for the restart of Line 6A and no approvals have been issued to Enbridge,” he said.

Oil futures topped $78 a barrel this week following the closure of the Houston-based company’s Line 6A, which can carry 670,000 barrels a day of crude, equal to more than one-third of Midwest imports. Gasoline in the Chicago spot market rose as much as 10 percent after the Sept. 9 closure on speculation that refiners would have to cut output, leading to tighter supply.

Crude for October delivery fell $1.46, or 1.9 percent, to $74.56 a barrel at 1:53 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The discount of the October contract to November futures widened to $1.28 a barrel, after narrowing to 84 cents this week.

Alternative Supplies

The shutdown of 6A has affected one output at one Midwest refinery and caused others to seek alternative crude sources and supply routes to make up for the loss of imports through the downed pipeline.

Fuel output at Exxon Mobil Corp.’s 248,000-barrel-a-day Joliet, Illinois, refinery has been affected by the outage, according to Kevin Allexon, a company spokesman. Exxon has arranged for other crude supplies for the plant, he said in an e-mail.

“We expect to meet our contractual commitments for transportation fuels and anticipate no supply disruptions at our branded service stations,” he said.

Citgo Petroleum Corp. said on Sept. 10 that it’s seeking other supplies for its 170,500-barrel-a-day Lemont refinery. The plant expects to keep running at planned rates while the pipeline is repaired, a company official said yesterday.

Marathon Oil Corp. has made adjustments to supply routes feeding its Midwest plants, Shane Pochard, a company spokesman, said in a telephone interview Sept. 14. Marathon imported 6.11 million barrels oil from Canada in June, according to the Energy Department.

‘Oblong’ Hole

Federal regulators investigating the cause of the 6A leak took custody of the damaged area of the pipe. The hole in the section was 2.5 inches in diameter and an “oblong shape,” Matthew Nicholson, an investigator at the site from the National Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview.

The 466-mile link has been shut for seven days after spilling about 6,100 barrels of oil from a section in Romeoville, 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Chicago. The 34-inch line runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Griffith, Indiana, according to Enbridge’s website.

The Line 6A leak was the second in as many months on Enbridge’s Lakehead System. Crude oil stored along the system, which delivered an average 1.62 million barrels a day in 2008, grew 11 percent from last week as shipments on two of the company’s lines remained halted, two shipper bulletins obtained by Bloomberg News showed.

Inventories rose to about 13.9 million barrels Sept. 14 from 12.5 million Sept. 10, according to the bulletins, which are sent daily to customers of the pipeline operator. Oil stored in the company’s Hardisty, Alberta, tanks more than doubled to 1.24 million barrels.

Storage levels in Superior jumped 24 percent to 3.89 million barrels from 3.15 million.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Clark in New York at aclark27@bloomberg.net; Paul Burkhardt in New York at pburkhardt@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net.

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