This is a worrying discovery for the environment. The cracked pipeline that released thousands of gallons of crude oil on the California coast may have been damaged months or even a year ago, investigators said Friday (Oct. 8). In total, 24 km of coastline between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, famous beaches in southern Los Angeles known as much for their surfers as for their dolphins, had to be closed to the public after the discovery of this oil spill last weekend.
Hundreds of people were mobilized to clean up the impact of this pollution, caused by the tearing of an oil pipeline passing nearby. An inspection revealed that he had been dragged along the seabed, up to thirty meters at the point of greatest deformation. This damage was probably caused by the anchor of a ship, but which one and when?
Study every movement
The presence of underwater organisms growing around the crack in the pipeline gave investigators a better idea of the timeline of events. The stage of development of these organisms “has set back the chronology of our investigations by at least several months, even a year”, explained during a press conference the captain of the coastguard Jason Neubauer.
A routine inspection was carried out in October 2020 by the operator of the pipeline, the Texan company Amplify Energy, without revealing any damage. “We are therefore going to study every movement of a ship over this pipeline and its vicinity in the past year,” said Captain Neubauer. They will also study the possibility that ships anchored in the area could have been dislodged from their anchorage during a violent storm last January, causing the anchor to slide on the bottom, or the possible impact of recent earthquakes.
The platforms in question
The start date of the oil spill, first reported on October 2, is also uncertain. A slight crack may have grown over time, reaching the 30 cm crack currently present. Without commenting on the cause of the incident, the boss of Amplify Energy, Martyn Willsher, had pointed out that the pipeline is a steel tube 40 cm in diameter covered with 2.5 cm of concrete. “It is not every day that he moves thirty meters,” he insisted.
The leak at the origin of the oil spill occurred near the Elly platform, built in 1980 to process crude extracted from dozens of neighboring wells. The disaster revived the debate on the presence of these oil platforms only a few kilometers from the coast. A total of 23 oil and gas platforms are installed in federal waters in Southern California.
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