The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Committee) is scheduled to meet on
Wednesday, September 15, 2010, at 10:00 a.m., in room 2167 of the Rayburn House Office Building
to receive testimony on the recent Enbridge pipeline failure in Marshall, Michigan. The failure
resulted in the release of an estimated one million gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the
Kalamazoo River.1 The Kalamazoo River flows into Lake Michigan. This hearing is being
conducted as one of several hearings that meet the oversight requirements under clauses 2(n), (o),
and (p) of Rule XI of the House of Representatives.
Although the hearing is focused on the Enbridge rupture in Michigan, Members are advised
that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the U.S. Department of Transportation
(DOT) will be able to answer questions at the hearing related to the September 9, 2010 Enbridge
release of crude oil on Line 6A in Romeoville, Illinois, and the deadly September 9, 2010 Pacific Gas
& Electric natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, as well as Federal oversight of gas and
hazardous liquid pipeline safety.
about one mile south of Marshall, Michigan.2 Enbridge reported that about 19,500 barrels (819,000
gallons) of crude oil were released. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later estimated the
spill to be more than one million gallons of oil.3 The oil flowed into a culvert, which led to
Talmadge Creek, and then flowed from the Creek about 30 to 35 miles down the Kalamazoo River
toward a Superfund site. The Kalamazoo River is a tributary to Lake Michigan. Portions of Line 6B
are located in High Consequence Areas (HCAs).4 Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River are
bordered by marshland and developed properties. The river experienced flooding before and after
the spill. The river levels later fell and stranded oil on some islands and in some backwaters,
wetlands, and floodplains. On August 25, 2010, Enbridge estimated that the total cost of damages
to the operator will be between $300 and $400 million. These charges include emergency response,
environmental remediation and cleanup activities associated with the crude oil release, costs to repair
the pipeline and related inspection costs, potential claims by third parties, and lost revenue.5
Line 6B originates in Griffith, Indiana, and runs eastward to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline is
a 30-inch, carbon steel pipeline that was constructed in 1969 using Normal Pipe Size 30, grade X52,
0.250-inch nominal wall thickness pipe. About one-third of the pipe was manufactured using a
Flash Weld process, while the other two-thirds used a Double Submerged Arc Weld (DSAW)
process. The pipe at the location of the failure was DSAW and was manufactured by
Italsider/Siderius in Italy. The pipe was coated in the field using then-commonly used polyethylene
tape as a corrosion barrier.
Line 6B transports up to 190,000 barrels of light synthetic, medium, and heavy crude oil per
day from Griffith, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario. It is part of Enbridge’s 1,900-mile Lakehead System,
the world’s longest petroleum pipeline, which spans from the international border near Neche,
North Dakota, to the international border near Marysville, Michigan, with an extension across the
Niagara River into the Buffalo, New York area. Line 6A which ruptured in Romeoville, Illinois, on
September 9 is also part of the Lakehead System.
At the time of the rupture, Enbridge was transporting a cold lake blend with an American
Petroleum Institute (API) gravity rating of 11. API gravity is a measure of how heavy or light
petroleum liquid is compared to water. If the liquid’s API gravity is greater than 10, it is lighter and
floats on water; if it is less than 10, it is heavier and sinks. Crude oil is classified as light, medium, or
heavy according to its measured API gravity. Light crude oil is defined as having an API gravity
higher than 31.1. Medium oil is defined as having an API gravity between 22.3 and 31.1. Heavy oil
is defined as having an API gravity below 22.3, and extra heavy oil is defined with API gravity below
10. Bitumen derived from the oil sands deposits in the Cold Lake region has an API gravity of
around 8. The Enbridge blend is therefore considered heavy oil, not a bitumen, and includes light
diluents (naphthalene), which enable the thicker heavy oil to flow through the pipeline. It is
produced using the same technique used for oil sands recovery: Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage
(SAGD), a process that injects steam to loosen up crude oil and pump it to the surface.
At a date and time yet to be determined by the NTSB, Enbridge’s 30-inch-diameter
hazardous liquid pipeline, known as Line 6B, ruptured about one mile south of Marshall, Michigan,
near the Marshall Pump Station. The attached map shows the route of Line 6B – from Griffith,
Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario. The U.S. portion of the line is about 286 miles in length.See attached
According to the NTSB, at 5:58 p.m. eastern daylight time on July 25, 2010, Enbridge
experienced an abrupt pressure drop at the Marshall Pump Station. The abrupt pressure drop
triggered a low suction pressure alarm received by the pipeline controller in Enbridge’s control
room, which is located in Edmonton, Alberta. The loss of suction pressure initiated a local
shutdown of the pump station.6
At 6:03 p.m., the pipeline controller received a five-minute volume balance alarm between
the Griffith and Marshall stations. This indicates a discrepancy in flows between the two points.
According to the NTSB, the pipeline controller called the Mass Balance System (MBS) analyst to
investigate the five-minute alarm. The MBS analyst diagnosed the alarm as column separation, or a
separation in the flow of oil, and advised the pipeline controller that the condition would be present
until the line is restarted at 4:00 a.m. the next morning – about 10 hours later.7
At 9:25 p.m., the first 911 call was received at the Calhoun County Dispatch Center, located
in Marshall City. The caller reported a “bad” odor, possibly natural gas. [Note: Michigan Gas
Utilities had a facility in Marshall.] The Marshall City Fire Department responded.9 10
At 4:04 a.m. on Monday, July 26, 2010, the pipeline controller in Enbridge’s control room
began the scheduled Line 6B start, which was planned from the 10-hour shutdown the previous day.
The line valves were commanded open and the Griffith Pump Station started. Eight minutes later,
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