Oil spill may be factor in gas prices jump

Pipeline breaks in Adams County

Published On: Jul 31 2012 08:36:19 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 31 2012 08:36:14 AM CDT

GRAND MARSH, Wis. -- An oil pipeline break in Adams County could be at least partially responsible for a jump in gas prices over the weekend.

The oil spill is keeping crews in the Grand Marsh area working around the clock on cleanup.

Enbridge Energy Partners, a Canadian Company that owns the pipeline, says the spill wasn't near any waterways and was contained to a small area. But the impact of the stopped flow of oil might be more widespread.

Hundreds of workers have descended on two small farms to clean up a spill of about 1,200 barrels of oil in a farm field.

"We've delineated the impact zone and we're looking at five or six acres impacted in total," said Richard Adams, VP of U.S. operations for Enbridge. "We've already scraped all the soil from that area and stockpiled it and we'll be hauling it out over the next few days."

The company said the cause of the spill is still under investigation.

As the environmental impact is assessed, the company said it is working 24 hours a day to repair the pipeline that had been sending 300,000 barrels of oil a day to refineries in the Chicago area, much of which comes back to Wisconsin as gasoline.

"It is having a minor effect on escalating prices in the Madison area," said Erin Roth, executive director of the Wisconsin Petroleum Council.

Prices at pumps in the Madison area jumped anywhere from 20 to 30 cents over the weekend, a change that Roth said causes uncertainty for gas station owners who may be put on notice by a refinery or charged more for their next shipment of gas.

"It used to be that we had millions of gallons on inventory in case we had these kinds of mishaps," said Roth. "But in today's gasoline markets it is just not feasible."

Roth said the gasoline pipeline break in the Milwaukee area was also having an effect on prices, although that has been fixed.

The company said it's hoping the pipeline is fixed and operational by the end of the week, but it will have a lot more work to do.

"We'll probably put down incremental monitoring wells to make sure groundwater is not an issue and we'll probably have a long-term presence making sure we monitor things," Adams said.

Enbridge moved one family out of the area temporarily and said it will work with the two property owners on restoration and compensation for damages.

Enbridge had an oil spill about a year ago in Michigan of a much larger magnitude. Enbridge officials said that despite these spills, their pipelines are safe.