Analysts said the spill may have a limited impact on crude oil futures when trading opens in Asia.
“I think that the pipeline [outage] is more likely to have a greater company impact than it will on the oil [futures] market — I think that global growth and geopolitics will be more important than the pipeline,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics in Austin.
U.S. and global oil prices have been balancing the risks of a large-scale disruption in Iranian crude against the struggling world economy this year.
A surge in production from North Dakota and Canada has built up inventories in the Midwest.
Schenker said the impact of the Enbridge disruption on Chicago refineries will depend largely on how much crude they have stockpiled and the length of the outage. Total Midwest crude inventories hit a record high of more than 110 million barrels over the past two months, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In most cases, smaller pipeline leaks can be repaired quickly, although regulators may require significant work if they find any cause for alarm. After the leak in Michigan two years ago — which spilled 15 times more oil than the Wisconsin leak if initial estimates of the Friday incident prove correct — one line was shut for more than two months.
Enbridge said two land owners had been affected and members of one family had been relocated for their safety and comfort, but that most of the spill was restricted to the pipeline right of way.
The company kept its estimate of the spill at around 1,200 barrels — about as much as would fit in six very large oil tanker trucks.
Just weeks ago, the National Transportation Safety Board blasted Enbridge’s handling of the July 2010 rupture of its Line 6B near Marshall, Mich., which led to more than 20,000 barrels of crude leaking into the Kalamazoo River.
The NTSB said that it found a breakdown of company safety measures and that Enbridge employees performed like “Keystone Kops” trying to contain it. The rupture went undetected for 17 hours.
Pipeline regulators fined Enbridge $3.7 million for the spill, their largest penalty ever.