Canadian Propane Hub Dealing with “Wisp” of a Leak

The Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ontario, which connects the city with Michigan. (image: pixelblender via flickr.com)

Preparations are being made to patch a “wisp” of a leak at BP Canada propane plant in Sarnia, Ontario, which has disrupted business at the supply center, the local Observer is reporting this morning. The leak sprang up mid-month, on a flange connected to an underground storage cavern at the plant. Though details about the pending fix were vague on Monday morning, with the Sarnia paper saying only that the preparations to stop up the hole were “underway,” and BP holding off on a target date for getting the work done.

Sarnia is home to one of Canada’s two major propane centers, and is a supply point for parts of the Northeast U.S. and Michigan, the country’s #1 propane consumer based on residential use.

Propane alarms signaled there was a leak in mid-February, which BP has stressed is “very small.” (Alarms at the facility’s perimeter never sounded, the company said, suggesting a negligible volume to the leak.) Still, railcar and truck pick-ups were suspended for a while this weekend, and a few safety precautions were taken, including briefly closing nearby roadways on Friday. To gear up for the repairs, BP has lowered the pressure in the storage cavern to prevent any more leaks during the work.

A company spokeswoman said the leak does not pose a threat to the public.

However small, the disruption adds just a little more instability to the supply chain this winter, following a large fire at a Texas propane hub in February and a months-long repair to a leaky propane pipeline in upstate New York earlier in the season.

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