Canadian natural gas line bombed, but not ruptured

DAWSON CREEK, B.C. - Police say a natural gas pipeline in northeast British Columbia that was bombed over the weekend did not rupture.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said Tuesday the bomb was set beside a line that transports poisonous or sour gas and is owned by EnCana (TSX:ECA), about 50 kilometres east of Dawson Creek, near the B.C.-Alberta border.

''We are not characterizing it as an act of terrorism,'' Shields said. ''It's an isolated criminal act.''

Shields said a moose hunter stumbled across a small bomb crater beside or underneath the line.

''The crater is about six feet across and four feet deep,'' he said. ''This hunter had been to that same location the previous day, so he knew that it had just occurred overnight.''

The bomb appears to have been deliberately set at a point where the 30-centimetre-wide pipeline emerges from the ground and it went off during the night of Oct. 11.

''Fortunately the gas line didn't rupture when the explosive was detonated but rather it was dented in,'' said Shields. ''If it had ruptured there would have obviously been a massive explosion and fireball.''

Even without an explosion, a rupture would have sent a cloud of sour gas into the air. Sour gas contains hydrogen sulphide, which can be fatal if breathed even in small quantities.

Police said the blast occurred a day after a suspicious letter was received by a local media outlet warning oil and gas companies to stop production and leave the area.

It appeared to be a protest against recent expansion of development activity, Shields said.

''Our investigators notified the local oil and gas companies about this letter but of course since we didn't have a direct or specific threat, there was no real action that we could take,'' he said.

But Shields said company oil and gas employees in northeastern B.C. should now be on the lookout for anyone who doesn't look like they belong in areas near their facilities.

RCMP explosives and forensic experts are studying the bomb debris and the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team are investigating the incident, including the letter.

Shields said the Mounties are not saying whether they have identified the kind of explosive used but noted it was powerful enough to blast a sizable crater in the ground.

Shields also said it's not known whether one or more people were involved in the bombing but in these cases more than one person usually knows who is responsible.

He appealed for anyone with information to contact Dawson Creek RCMP.