A 13-Inch Tear In A Pipeline Was Likely The Cause Of The Catastrophic California Oil Spill

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A 13-Inch Tear In A Pipeline Was Likely The Cause Of The Catastrophic California Oil Spill

Thu, 10/07/2021 - 14:22
Oil rig near the coast of California (copyright by Shutterstock/VDB Photos)
Oil rig near the coast of California (copyright by Shutterstock/VDB Photos)

Authorities believe to have found the source of a massive oil spill off the coast of California on October 2, 2021. Catastrophic oil spills shuttered the coastal beaches, causing the worst ecological nightmare as dead sea animals floated to the shows.

According to the authorities, about 144000 gallons of crude oil spewed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California was traced down to a 13-inch split discovered in a 4,000-foot section of the pipeline that had been pulled 105 feet sideways.

"The Pipeline has essentially been pulled like a bowstring. And so, at its widest point is about 105 feet away from where it was. So, it is kind of an almost a semicircle," Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said during the Tuesday news conference.

The discovery may provide critical insight into the source of the massive oil spill, but not the cause of the 13-inch slit on the pipe. California authorities are still probing what could have led to the pipe split and the significant pipe displacement. The 17-mile long steel pipe pipeline lying on the ocean floor encased with concrete was installed about 98 feet under the water in 1981.

Although the pipe was found pulled 105 feet on its side, there are no reports of a vessel spotted above the spill site before the damage occurred. However, a multi-agency team is working to determine whether a ship was in the area or not, said  Captain Rebecca Ore, a US Coast Guard commanding officer at Los Angeles-Long Beach.

Preliminary findings show Beta Offshore's 16- inch San Pedro Bay Pipeline ruptured at approximately 02:30 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on October 2, 2021, resulting in a leakage of many barrels of crude oil into the San Pedro Bay, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.

Initial estimates indicated that the failed pipeline released approximately 700 barrels (BBLs) of crude oil, although the company estimates a maximum potential release of roughly 3,134 BBLs. Before the rupture, the line was reportedly operating at approximately 300-400 pounds per square inch gauge.

Based on preliminary findings by Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Beta Offshore's control room personnel received a low-pressure alarm on the San Pedro Bay Pipeline, indicating a possible failure at about 05:30 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on October 2. Three hours later, at approximately 06:01 PDT (09:01 EDT), Beta Offshore reported the San Pedro Bay Pipeline was shut down.

While the documents reviewed by CNN show the Amplify Energy reported the matter to the authorities over 12 hours after the response team was already informed of the oil leak, the company's CEO explained their system did not detect the fault until Saturday morning.

"We were not aware of any spill until 8:09 a.m. on Saturday morning. I promise you. If we were aware of something on Friday night ... I promise you we would have immediately stopped all operations," Willsher told the reporters on Wednesday press conference.

The ruptured pipe has a 16-inch nominal diameter with 0.500-inch wall thickness for the offshore portion and 0.375-inch wall thickness for the onshore portion. It consists of an X-42 grade pipe with a double-submerged arc-welded longitudinal seam. The pipeline's onshore portion is cathodically protected, and the offshore portion has sacrificial anodes on the pipeline.

Following the Corrective Action Order (CAO) issued to Amplify Energy by the authorities, the company will keep the pipeline shut for maintenance and inspection before the company can resume crude oil transmission through the pipeline.

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