Enbridge closes Illinois pipeline after fiery crash near Chicago

Enbridge has closed a pipeline in Illinois after a car crashed into the pipline in a Chicago suburb,  killing two people and setting off a fire that burned for about three hours. The pipeline leaked for about six hours.

The Chicago Tribune reported that a car crashed through a fence in New Lennox, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and struck the pipeline.   Two men in the car died, three others, all in their 20s, in a second car, were injured. The Tribune says environmental and repair crews were able to seal the leak.

The Calgary Herald reports:

Enbridge Inc. said on Sunday it does not know yet when it can restart a key segment of its oil pipeline system in the U.S. Midwest, after a deadly vehicle accident in Illinois caused an oil leak and fire, likely squeezing supplies for refiners in the region.

The outage of Enbridge’s 318,000 barrel a day Line 14/64, which extends to Griffith, Indiana, from Superior, Wisconsin, is also expected to pressure already-weak prices for Canadian crude this week as supplies back up in Alberta, market sources and analysts said.


The Chicago Sun Times, in a more detailed report, “‘It’s horrible, horrible, horrible’: 2 dead in oil pipeline crash” says there were two vehicles involved in the crash about 2:05 am that caused an explosion that burned for hours

The fire that erupted in New Lenox Township could be seen from at least a half-mile away and wasn’t put out until 5 a.m., three hours after the explosion, and the pipeline wasn’t capped for six hours. The situation was so hazardous that even by Saturday afternoon, coroner’s officials had not been able to recover the bodies…

A Ford Mustang with two people inside and an SUV with three occupants were apparently driving side by side when they went through a chain-link fence at the end of a dead-end road and traveled about 125 feet before striking the pipeline. The crash ignited the crude oil inside the pipeline.

A worker said the impact with the pipe appeared to have “sheared off” the top of the Mustang.

The Sun Times says a local police officer was able to help the three injured men escape from the SUV and then get over the fence. No one was able to help the two men in the Mustang. One of the dead was later identified as a local firefighter.

The CBS News bureau in Chicago reported;

The crude oil leak was capped at 8 a.m., said Rich Adams, vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge Energy Company.

“When you hit a liquid fuel line, usually it’s not very good. They can ignite and there was ignition,” New Lenox Fire Protection District Chief Jon Mead said.

US NTSB to pipeline companies: Call 911 in an emergency

It sounds obvious. In an emergency (in most of North America) dial 911.

Only according a US National Transportation Safety Board Report dated June 8 and released today, Pacific Gas and Electric didn’t call 911 in California at the time of a major pipeline breach and fire  on Sept. 9, 2010, in San Bruno, California that caused an explosion that killed eight people, injured many more and caused extensive property damage.
The NTSB report says that while the San Bruno Fire Department was aware of the local natural gas distribution system, the department had no maps and had no briefings on the larger, natural gas transmission pipelines that transversed San Bruno.
The NTSB report says
Because of the differences in operating characteristics, transmission pipelines have different safety risks and concerns for emergency response, including the pipeline company’s  ability to shutdown the pipeline rapidly.  

In a manner similar to the Enbridge situation in Michigan last year (the NTSB report on that incident is still pending), the PG&E data system showed a pressure drop within four minutes of the rupture. 

But it was two off-duty employees who alerted the company’s dispatchers three minutes later to a possible problem.

PG&E dispatched a single technician to the scene who was not authorized to shut off valves. 

In the meantime, public calls to 911 reported the rupture and fire and first responders got to the initial scene in three minutes.

It was not until a technician arrived at the scene and reported in some 16 minutes after the event began that PG&E control room put together the drop in pressure, alarms and dispatcher information and realized that they had a major problem. 

 The NTSB report says in the next paragraph after the incident summary


A pipeline operator’s prompt notification to the local emergency response agencies through a 911 emergency call center can be crucial to the success of the emergency response effort and protection of the public. Even in the case of a smaller, slower leak that does not immediately ignite, when the pipeline operator has immediately notified local emergency response authorities of a potential serious problem, can mobilize needed response resources and area better able to recognize quickly the symptoms of a potential serious gas leak threat


Apparently under current US regulations, there is no requirement for pipeline operators to call 911.

The report goes on to say


The NTSB is concerned that a pipeline operator that does not require control room operators to notify the applicable 911 emergency call center in the event of a possible pipeline rupture can adversely affect the timeliness and effectiveness of emergency response effort. Therefore, the NTSB recommends that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issue guidance to operators of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines and hazardous liquid pipelines regarding the importance of control room operators immediately and directly notifying the 911 emergency call center(s) for the communities and jurisdictions which those pipelines are located when a possible rupture of any pipeline is indicated.

Read the NTSB report on 911 response to the PG&E San Bruno pipeline disaster.

Editors’s Note:

It is clear that this brief NTSB report  (it is still investigating the actual cause of the rupture and explosion) confirms the fears of residents of northwestern British Columbia about pipeline ruptures in the wilderness, whether those pipelines carry bitumen or natural gas, are harder to detect and fix than problems in populated areas like California.
Also residents of northwestern BC are entitled to get more information from the National Energy Board, the BC Utilities Commission and the companies that are proposing large scale transmission of natural gas through this region about the special hazards related to transmission pipelines mentioned in the NTSB report.
Enhanced by Zemanta