Broken SoCal Oil Pipeline Moved 100 Feet From Charted Position

Courtesy City of Huntington Beach

Published Oct 5, 2021 7:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard said that dive and ROV investigations have confirmed unusual signs of damage to the oil pipeline that spilled 125,000 gallons of crude off the coast of Orange County, California last weekend. 

According to the unified response command, a section of pipeline of about 4,000 feet in length has shifted position by about 100 feet. One segment has a 13-inch split - the likely source of the oil release - and officials said that the damage is not consistent with "normal wear and tear" on the pipeline. Divers have confirmed that the breach is no longer spilling oil, and the pipeline operator has applied suction to both ends of the 17.7-mile line in an attempt to keep any remaining crude inside.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation. On Monday, USCG Capt. Rebecca Ore - the commander of Coast Guard Sector LA/Long Beach - said that the pipeline may have been damaged by a ship's anchor, among other possibilities. 

"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 . . . it is possible that they would transit over a pipeline," said Capt. Ore.

The command also responded to questions about the response timeline. The USCG's National Response Center was notified of an offshore spill on Friday evening, but the Coast Guard did not initiate a spill response effort until Saturday morning. In an explanation, the unified command said that the early reports could not be confirmed until Saturday due to restricted visibility, and the spill was spotted as soon as the fog lifted. 

As of Tuesday morning, response crews have recovered neary 5,000 gallons of oil, cleaned six miles of shoreline and deployed almost two miles of containment boom. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency to free up federal funds for the spill response, and he is due to visit the scene on Tuesday. 

"The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment," said Gov. Newsom. "As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities and the environment."