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Bakken Crude Weakens to 7-Week Low as Pipeline Restart Expected

Bakken crude on the spot market weakened to a seven-week low relative to West Texas Intermediate as Enbridge Inc. prepared to restart a pipeline delivering to the oil’s pricing point.

Repairs on Enbridge’s Line 81 continued this morning, and the line is expected to return to normal service later today, Houston-based spokeswoman Terri Larson said by e-mail. It’s the main line on Enbridge’s Bakken system, and can deliver as much as 210,000 barrels a day to Clearbrook, Minnesota.

The line was shut July 22 after a 1-barrel leak was discovered in Rugby, North Dakota.

Bakken priced in Clearbrook weakened $1 to a $5-a-barrel discount to WTI at 12:06 p.m., the largest since June 3, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The light, sweet crude from North Dakota and nearby areas also faces more competition from similar from Canada, after Nexen Inc. returned its 58,500-barrel-a-day Long Lake upgrader to normal operation. The company reduced rates at the plant, which converts bitumen into synthetic crude, after Enbridge shut Line 37, which serviced the upgrader, on June 22.

Oil companies produce Bakken by drilling long directional wells through shale rock, then pumping in a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to perforate the shale, releasing the hydrocarbons.

Oil output in North Dakota’s portion of the Bakken field has grown from about 10,000 barrels a day at the start of 2007 to a record 745,400 barrels a day in May. Bakken production has helped spur a U.S. energy renaissance that saw the country produce 7.56 million barrels of crude a day in the week ending July 19, the highest level since December 1990, based on Energy Information Administration data.

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