Prior Pipeline Damage Caused CA Oil Spill


Coast Guard officials announced at a press conference Friday that the underwater pipeline responsible for the California oil spill was likely damaged by a ship’s anchor months prior to the incident.  

Coast Guard Captain Jason Neubauer, the Chief of the Office of Investigation and Analysis, explained at the conference that underwater video evidence found in the investigation indicated that a linear fracture was due to an anchor drag situation several months to a year ago. Officials are “confident” that the pipeline was intact in October 2020 and are combing over video and radar for the year.

It is reported that an anchor from one large ship or possibly multiple ships may have hit the pipeline, cracking the concrete casing and dragging the pipeline more than 100 feet from its initial position. Geological events, such as recent earthquakes in California, and a "heavy weather event" from January are also being examined.

Neubauer stated that the investigation is ongoing and they “already have several leads.” However, officials have yet to identify ships that may have been involved in the damage.

“We’re going to be looking at every vessel movement over that pipeline, and every close encroachment from the anchor just for the entire course of the year,” Neubauer said.

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.

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.

At least 126,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the waters off Orange County as a result of the spill, officials reported.

“I don’t expect it to be more. That’s the capacity of the entire pipeline,” said Martyn Willsher, the Chief Executive of Amplify Energy. He said the pipeline was suctioned out and dozens of nearby oil platforms operated by Amplify were shut down.

Clean Up Efforts, Ongoing Investigation

By midday the following 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 had 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.

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

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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