California oil pipeline leak: Mystery continues to swirl around cause

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Thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled

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Investigators investigating the cause of an oil pipeline collapse off the Southern California coast have pointed to the possibility that a ship’s anchor pulled the line across the ocean and broke it, but two have so far been released. The videos provide only tantalizing clues as to what may have happened 100 feet (30 meters) below the ocean’s surface.

A Coast Guard video released Thursday shows a ditch in the ocean floor leading to a bend in the submerged line, but experts gave different opinions about the importance of the brief, grainy shots. An earlier video showed a 13-inch (33-centimeter) rupture in the line, but the pipe showed no evidence of damage that he said would be expected from a collision with a multi-ton anchorage from cargo ships. who regularly pass through the area. Away from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

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Cargo ship behaves strangely near California pipeline: report

Adams, president of Houston-based Interface Consulting International, said in a video the light bow in the line “doesn’t necessarily look like anchor damage,” said in an email. When a pipeline collides with an anchor or other heavy object “usually resulting in physical damage that may lead to fracture.”

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Ramanan Krishnamurthy, a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Houston, said he considered the video “revealing” a twist in the line.

“It looks to me like you have something that’s been dragged into the sand that might have hit the pipeline,” he said. However, he was puzzled that the leak had come from a crack and not a large wound, believing it to have been hit by an anchor or some other object.

The major questions remain: Could the line have been hit days before the leaks started? Which ship is responsible? And if the ship’s anchor isn’t the culprit, what else could be?

Meanwhile, investigators continue to look for the cause of the brakes that spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil off Huntington Beach’s famed surf break, as well as determine what happened in the critical early hours after reports of a potential oil spill. came in first.

Experts said the 13-inch-long (33 cm), narrow wound seen in a video could explain why signs of an oil spill were seen on Friday night, but the spill was not detected by the pipeline operator until Saturday morning.

“My experience suggests this will be a pretty hard leak to determine remotely quickly,” said Richard Kuprevic, a private pipeline accident investigator and consultant. “An opening of this type, on a 17-mile-long (27-kilometer) underwater pipe, is very difficult to detect from remote signals. These crack-type releases are low-rate and can last a long time.” “

When pipes experience a catastrophic failure, the breach is usually too large, which is called a “fish mouth” rupture in the industry because it is as wide as a fish’s mouth, he said.

Amplify Energy, a Houston-based company that owns and operates three offshore oil platforms and pipelines south of Los Angeles, said it didn’t know what it was until its employees found an offshore oil on the water at 8:09 a.m. Saturday. Didn’t detect oil shine, so far there was no leak. am

The cause of the spill is being investigated by multiple agencies as cleanup continues for miles of shoreline along the Orange County coast south of Sister Port.

Coast Guard on Thursday Revised Leakage Estimate At least approximately 25,000 gallons (95,000 litres) and no more than 132,000 gallons (50,000 litres).

The agency said it was investigating the incident along with other agencies because of the possible involvement of a ship and caused “major marine casualties” in damages of more than $500,000. It said they would determine whether criminal charges, civil penalties or new laws or regulations are needed.

California oil spill emergency: Criminal, civil investigation reportedly launched

Investigators said the leak occurred at a depth of about 98 feet (30 meters) over a distance of about 5 miles (8 kilometers). Amplify CEO Martin Wilsher has said that a 4,000-foot (1,219 m) section of the pipeline was removed by 105 feet (32 m), which bent like a string at the bow.

Jonathan Stewart, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he was surprised the damage was not more severe, given how far the pipe was taken.

“When I heard that it was still displaced, my first reaction was that it is remarkable that it remains intact at all,” Stewart said.

A boy stands on the sand as workers in protective suits stand after an oil spill in Newport Beach, Calif., Thursday, October 7, 2021.  wildlife, while the crew scrambles on Sunday before dispersing crude into the protected wetlands.

Stewart noted that moving a large section of pipe up to 105 feet (32 m) could cause a “bending deformity”—tension on the side that was stretched in a semicircle, with compression on the other as it turned inward. was bent, Stewart said.

It’s possible that such pressure alone could result in relapse, although Stewart said there is too little information to draw conclusions about the cause. It’s possible that a sharp part of the anchor could pierce the pipeline but “you could still suffer damage from bending.”

“Because it’s pulling on the pipe, you create these bending stresses in the pipe, which can eventually become so great that they break it,” he said.

Questions remain about when the oil company learned it had a problem and was delaying reporting the spill.

A foreign ship anchored in the waters off Huntington Beach told the Coast Guard that it observed flashes more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) long after 6 p.m. 7 p.m., which was reported to the Coast Guard at 2:06 p.m. on Saturday after being reviewed by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyst.

Floating barriers known as booms move to try to prevent further intrusions into the harbor in Newport Beach, Calif., Thursday, October 7, 2021.

Federal pipeline safety regulators have set the time of the incident at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, but say the company didn’t shut down the pipeline until 6:01 a.m. and didn’t report the leak to the Coast Guard until 9:07 a.m. And state rules require immediate notification of the spill.

Wilser, who took questions with Coast Guard and other officials in four days, did not attend Thursday’s news conference. Other officials declined to explain his absence.

type of crack seen in coast guard video Kuprewicz said the low pressure is large enough to allow some of the oil to escape, potentially triggering the alarm. But since the pipeline was operating at relatively low pressure, the control room operator would have simply dismissed the alarm because the pressure was not very high to begin with, he said.

Because the line is encased in concrete – a means of keeping it weighted on the ocean floor – Coast Guard videos do not reveal the position of the half-inch-thick steel pipe below.

Once federal safety investigators have cut out the damaged part of the pipe and removed it, they will be able to conduct a closer examination looking for signs of corrosion, metal fatigue or other anomalies, making it more vulnerable to failure. Will go Kuprevic said that examination would also reveal whether the crack had grown larger over time.


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