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Minimal Impact from Rupture on TransCanada's Nova Pipe

Service was restored late Thursday after repair of a rupture on a remote leg of TransCanada Corp.'s Nova natural gas pipeline grid in Alberta, enabling oilsands plants, which are its primary customers, to resume operating after brief interruptions.

The mishap prompted Syncrude, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Imperial Oil and Suncor Energy to impose controlled reductions or suspensions of production at plants that pump out a combined 800,000 b/d as precautionary measures.

TransCanada-Nova reported that its control room detected the pipe rupture and shut down the line shortly before 3:00 a.m. MDT Thursday. Service was being restored to customers by about 6:00 p.m. (see Daily GPI, Oct. 18).

The disruption affected a three-year-old stretch of the Nova grid known as its North Central Corridor, built for about C$1 billion to ship 1.6 Bcf/d to northeastern Alberta where thermal oilsands extraction is Canada's fastest growing use of gas.

Investigators from TransCanada and the National Energy Board remained at the scene of the rupture, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) west of the oilsands capital of Fort McMurray in a vast tract of woods and muskeg swamps. No known harm was done to people or wildlife. The cause of the mishap, the volume of the gas leak, and potential added safety precautions were under review.

Planned and unplanned plant outages are frequent in the oilsands and do not automatically or rapidly disrupt flows to markets. The supply network includes jumbo storage tank farms at production sites and pipeline terminals.

But the incident Thursday fueled brief spikes in prices for the main oilsands products. Premium light synthetic crude oil (SCO) increased by about US$1 a barrel and heavier Western Canada Select gained as much as US$2.50/bbl before calm returned to skittish commodity markets.

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