Alberta oil pipeline seen down until end of June

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – An Alberta pipeline that ruptured in late April, causing oil to spill into a wilderness area near a native community, will remain shut down until at least the end of this month, keeping some crude trapped in northern oil fields.

Plains All American Pipeline LP said on Thursday it aims to complete a series of digs to check the integrity of the northern leg of its 187,000 barrel a day Rainbow oil pipeline by the end of June.

Several excavations are required by Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board, which will use the data to make a decision on allowing a restart of the segment of pipeline, which has been down since April 29.

The southern part of the pipeline was also shut for about 10 days in May as forest fires that swept across northern Alberta cut power to pump stations.

Plains said its digs were going slowly due to the remote locations of the sites, as well as the forest fire threat and bad weather.

“We are working to complete the remaining digs by the end of June,” the company said in an email. It said it did not have a firm timeline for the restart of the line.

The northern section carries mostly conventional crude from northern Alberta fields. The outage has had minimal impact on cash crude prices, traders have said, but it has come at a time when numerous ruptures and leaks in pipelines carrying Canadian crude have raised questions about reliability and safety.

The rupture caused 28,000 barrels of light, sweet oil to spill. The company blamed poorly compacted soil under the line for the break. (Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson)