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British Columbia Sees Second Pipe Attack Following Threats

What appears to be the second attempt in less than a week to bomb an EnCana Corp. pipeline near the town of Dawson Creek in northeastern British Columbia (BC) was made late last Wednesday or early Thursday. The pipeline was damaged but did not rupture, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

"The explosion appears to be a deliberate act that left a crater in the ground under the pipeline which carries sour gas," RCMP said. "The pipeline was damaged by the blast but did not rupture. A small leak in the pipeline was quickly contained by technicians."

The explosions follow the receipt by local news media of letters threatening the gas and oil industry.

The blast site was discovered by pipeline workers at approximately 9:15 a.m. PDT last Thursday. It is not clear exactly when the blast occurred. The location of the incident is off Highway 2 on the 201 Road approximately half a kilometer from the Alberta border in an isolated area. There are no known witnesses.

The incident is similar to an attempt made on the EnCana pipeline east of Dawson Creek that resulted in an explosion, but not a breach, Oct. 11 Police said they think the two attacks are related. The 12-inch diameter EnCana pipeline carries sour gas to the company's Steep Rock gas plant.

"The facility was quickly shut down and the leak was stopped once the line was depressurized," EnCana said. "The amount of gas that leaked was very small and it did not present any danger to employees or the public. The natural gas contained a very small percentage of hydrogen sulphide, about 0.07%. There were no injuries and residents were notified of the event. There was no need for an evacuation."

After the first explosion EnCana spokesman Alan Boras said the line "was moving about 60 million [cubic feet] a day, so on a relative basis it's a small pipeline. It did not breach, there was no break, there is no leak, there was no explosion or fire."

The Steep Rock plant began operation in 2006 and is the largest gas processing plant to be built in British Columbia in the past decade.

About 30% of Alberta gas reserves and production are sour, including many of the biggest and best remaining untapped deposits along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Production of sour gas, which contains lethal hydrogen-sulfide, has been opposed by environmentalists and landowners in the region. Opponents of sour gas production -- organized as CEASE, the Committee to Encourage and Advocate a Safe Environment -- recently converged on Tomahawk, a hamlet about 100 miles southwest of the Alberta capital of Edmonton, for a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful crusade to ax sour deposits from the industry's development repertoire (see NGI, Oct. 6).

Prior to the explosions "a suspicious letter was received by a local media outlet on Oct. 10 advising local oil and gas companies to cease production and leave the area," authorities said after the first explosion. "RCMP contacted local oil and gas businesses to advise them of the letter. It did not contain any specific threats."

The RCMP is dedicating investigators from a number of specialized units including the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team. The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission also has been notified, EnCana said. The RCMP is asking oil and gas workers in the area to remain extra vigilant and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity or people who look like they don't belong. Anyone seeing anything suspicious is asked to make a note of the vehicle description, license plate and direction of travel and call local police. Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to contact the Dawson Creek RCMP Detachment at (250) 784-3700, or call Crimestoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

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