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Investigation Launched into CA Oil Spill

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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In a joint statement issued over the weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that an investigation had been launched into the cause, volume and type of oil resulting from a pipeline failure off the coast of Orange County.

According to reports, the incident has resulted in at least 126,000 gallons, or the equivalent of 3,000 barrels, of postproduction crude oil to spill into the ocean. However, officials from Huntington Beach think that the spill could have released as many as 144,000 gallons.

What Happened

Around 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, workers for Amplify Energy—which owns the offshore platform, Elly—noticed a sheen in the water off the coast of Newport Beach, California, while doing a line inspection and notified the U.S. Coast Guard.

In response to the report, the Coast Guard established a unified command to respond to an oil spill, which at the time, was reported to be approximately 13 square miles in size, 3 miles off the coast.

The unified command consists of Beta Offshore, the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. Supporting agencies included the cities of Long Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

As part of their combined efforts to contain the spill, the Coast Guard and Huntington Beach Police Department dispatched aircraft to access the situation.

At the time of the incident, members of the public were asked to avoid any oiled areas. The spill also prompted officials to close the beaches in Huntington Beach, where the third day of the annual Pacific Airshow was slated to take place.

In lieu of volunteers, officials also deployed trained spill response contractors to begin clean-up work.

While it was not immediately clear what caused the leak, the failure reportedly involved a 17.5-mile pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform called Elly. The platform is operated by Beta Offshore, who is owned by Amplify Energy.

Elly is one of 23 oil and gas platforms installed in federal waters off of the Southern California coast, according to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Chief Executive of Amplify, Martyn Willsher, reported in the following days that the pipeline had been “suctioned” at both ends and that the spill may have peaked at around 126,000 gallons.

By Sunday night, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement that crews had “recovered” about 3,150 gallons of oil. Fourteen boats were involved in the cleanup effort and crews had deployed 5,360 feet of boom, a floating barrier that helps contain oil.

County officials also built large sand berms near Talbert Marsh to keep ocean water and oil from continuing to flow into the nearby habitat. The 25-acre ecological reserve across from Huntington State Beach is home to dozens of species of birds, officials said.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency due to the spill. “The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” he said in a statement.

Clean Up Efforts & Investigation

By midday Monday, the Coast Guard reported that roughly 4,158 gallons of oil had been removed from the water and 8,700 feet of oil boom were deployed.

Also on Monday, Willsher said that the company believed it had identified the location of the pipeline rupture. Underwater remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, had narrowed in on a section of pipeline believed to be the source of the leak.

Noting on the infrastructure’s stability, Willsher said that although the pipelines and pipeline facilities were constructed in the 1970s and 1980s, the pipeline is cleaned weekly and undergoes regular inspections to check its wall thickness.

“We have never seen degradation of pipe from the inside,” said Willsher.

While a cause is being investigated, Willsher pointed to another possible cause of the leak: A ship’s anchor might have hit the pipeline.

“These ships are anchored, and many are awaiting entry into the San Pedro Bay Port complex—the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—and in the course of transit it is possible that they would transit over pipeline,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore.

Amplify is currently working with local, state and federal agencies on recovery efforts.

"Our employees live and work in these communities, and we're all deeply impacted and concerned about the impact on not just the environment, but the fish and wildlife as well,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that this is recovered as quickly as possible, and we won't be done until this is concluded.”

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement was assisting “in identifying the location and source of any spills and provide technical assistance to the Unified Command in stopping the spillage.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has also sent investigators to gather information and assess the source of the oil leak.

   

Tagged categories: Cleanup; Environmental Protection; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Program/Project Management; Safety

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