HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) – The pipeline that spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the water off Southern California has been split and apparently dragged over 100 feet along the bottom of the the ocean, possibly by the anchor of a ship, officials said on Tuesday. .
The segment of the pipe that was dragged was three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers) long and the notch was over a foot (30 centimeters) wide, the Coast Guard said.
Preliminary reports suggest the failure may have been “caused by an anchor snagging the pipeline, causing a partial tear,” federal transportation investigators said.
The line break occurred about 5 miles offshore at a depth of about 98 feet (30 meters) below the surface, investigators said. These findings were included in an order from the Department of Transportation that prevents the company that operates the pipeline from restarting it without extensive inspections and testing.
The order did not identify the source of the investigators’ information, and agency officials did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore said divers had determined that about 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) of the pipeline had been “moved sideways” by about 105 feet (32 meters). She didn’t say what might have made him move.
Additionally, the pipeline had a 13-inch (33-centimeter) notch, Ore said.
The head of the company that operates the line said the pipe had been moved in “almost a semicircle”.
“The pipeline was basically pulled like a bowstring. And so at its widest point it’s 105 feet from where it was, ”Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said at a press conference.
Officials said Monday they are examining whether a ship’s anchor could have caused the oil spill that has tainted beaches in Orange County. There was no confirmation on Tuesday that the leak was caused by an anchor.
The Coast Guard did not investigate the first reports of an oil spill for nearly 12 hours because it lacked sufficient corroborating evidence and was hampered by obscurity and lack of technology, a responsible at the Associated Press.
Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer acknowledged that the Coast Guard was alerted Friday evening by a “good samaritan” that there was a shard in the water. Penoyer initially said the Coast Guard broadcast a program to the many freighters and tankers anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as oil rigs, seeking more information but not having received no response.
At a press conference later, Ore disputed this and said the Coast Guard did not release any information to ships or oil rigs.
Penoyer said it was common to have reports of a shard near a busy seaport. It would take more than 12 hours for a pipeline company to report a spill of up to 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of heavy crude.
“Looking back, it seems obvious, but they didn’t know it at the time,” Penoyer said. “So putting yourself in what they knew is a very normal process.”
Two first calls regarding the spill arrived at the National Response Center, which is made up of the Coast Guard and advises other disaster agencies for a swift response. The first was from an anchored ship that noticed a shard in the water. The second came six hours later from a federal agency that said a possible oil spill had been spotted on satellite imagery, according to reports from the California Office of Emergency Services.
The spill sent up to 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of heavy crude into the ocean off Huntington Beach, then spilled onto miles of beaches and a protected marsh. The beaches could remain closed for weeks or more, a blow to the local economy. Coastal fishing in the area is closed to commercial and recreational fishing.
Federal and state authorities require prompt reporting of a spill. Failure to do so has led to criminal charges against companies including Plains All American Pipeline, which caused a coastal spill near Santa Barbara in 2015, and Southern California Gas Co. for a massive well blowout later in the river. year.
Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley said she was concerned the company could withhold evidence. But county emergency manager Michelle Anderson reassured the supervisory board on Tuesday that the coast guard was also on the scene to ensure the investigation is independent.
“This is an investigation with objective parties involved, so eventually we’ll know the outcome,” Anderson said.
Freighters entering the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach regularly cross the region. Arrears have plagued ports in recent months, and several dozen or more giant ships have been regularly anchored while waiting to enter ports and unload.
A 2016 spill response plan for Amplify rigs submitted to federal regulators called for immediate notification to federal officials when more than one barrel of oil is released into water. Releases greater than five barrels – or that threaten state waters or the coastline – require immediate notification from the state fire marshal and California wildlife officials.
The pipeline was supposed to be monitored by an automated leak detection system that would report problems to a permanently staffed control room on the oil rig known as Elly.
The system has been designed to trigger an alarm whenever a change in oil flow is detected. But the speed at which it can account for these changes should vary depending on the size of the leak. For a large leak – 10% or more of the amount of oil flowing through the pipeline – the detection time has been estimated to be five minutes. According to the response plan, smaller leaks were expected to take up to 50 minutes to detect.
The spill plan warned that a pipeline rupture could cause “substantial damage to the environment” and that in a worst-case scenario 3,111 barrels (131,000 gallons) of oil could be released from the pipeline .
Willsher said the required agencies were notified “instantly” when the company acknowledged the leak was from its pipeline. Records show the spill was not reported by Amplify Energy, but by Witt O’Brien’s, a crisis and emergency management company listed on the spill response plan as a point of contact to inform the NRC.
The report said the leaking pipe had been closed, but containment was not confirmed.
Potential criminal investigations were being carried out by the Orange County prosecutor, the US Department of Justice, the Coast Guard and the California Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, officials said.
Safety advocates have lobbied for years for federal rules that would tighten oil spill detection requirements and force companies to install valves that can automatically shut off the flow of crude in the event of a leak. The petroleum and pipeline industries have resisted these demands because of their high cost.
Associated Press editors Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Michael Biesecker in Washington, Bernard Condon in New York, and Amy Taxin in Huntington Beach, California, contributed to this report.
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