California oil spill: What’s happening?

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The cause of the leak is being investigated

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Oil is being washed away on some Southern California beaches as a leak in an underwater pipeline from an offshore platform dumped tens of thousands of gallons of heavy crude into ocean waters. The spill blew away the famous sands of Huntington Beach, known as Surf City USA, and could keep the ocean and shoreline closed there and in some other communities to the south for weeks.

Here’s a look at what happened, who’s involved and what happened after:

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Oil spill in California: Workers took 3 hours to shut down pipeline after alarm sounded

What happened?

Orange County sailors and residents of Newport Beach Started reporting petroleum smell Oil shines in the air and on the water Friday afternoon, October 1.

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The Coast Guard confirmed the leak the next morning. The glow on the sea was miles wide and began to wash ashore in raw, sticky, dark spots. The leak occurred at a depth of approximately 98 feet (30 m) over a distance of about 5 miles (8 kilometers) and came from a pipeline owned by Amplify Energy. The Houston-based company owns and operates three nearby offshore platforms that pipe oil to Long Beach.

Oil first flowed into Huntington Beach, which also includes the Talbert Marsh, a sensitive wetland. The crude was later spotted at Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point on the Orange County coast. As of Thursday, washes of tar balls were reported in Carlsbad, San Diego County.

How much oil leaked?

It is still a mystery.

Amplify Energy publicly stated that no more than 126,000 gallons (477,000 litres) flow through its pipes. But the company also told federal investigators that the total could be 29,400 gallons (111,300 liters). On Thursday, the Coast Guard announced its estimate of at least 25,000 gallons (95,000 litres) and more than 132,000 gallons (500,000 litres).

David Pettit, a senior attorney at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, finds it hard to believe that Amplify doesn’t know how much oil it’s lost. “If they knew what the flow rate was in the pipeline, and how much the pressure dropped, and for how long, you could calculate it in minutes,” Petit said.

How was the leak detected?

A commercial vessel anchored at Huntington Beach reported to a National Dangerous Spill Hotline of the Coast Guard that it observed flashes more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) long after 6 p.m. Friday night.

A satellite image shot by the European Space Agency indicated a potential oil shortage in the area around 7 p.m., after being reviewed by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyst reported to the Coast Guard at 2:06 p.m. Saturday Went.

The Coast Guard, which said it did not act on any reports, decided to wait until daylight because darkness and a lack of technology would hamper oil exploration.

Amplify CEO Martin Wilser said the company didn’t know the leak until it noticed oil in the water at 8:09 a.m. Saturday.

However, other reports indicate that the company had received hints of the leak at 2:30 am on Saturday. Federal regulators said an alarm on Platform Alley at the time alerted a control room operator to a drop in pipeline pressure that could indicate a leak.

According to the California Office of Emergency Services, the company did not report the leak until 8:55 a.m. The company that reported the leak on behalf of Amplify said the incident happened at 2:30 p.m.

At the time the company reported the leak, the Coast Guard said it had found oil in the water.

who is responsible?

The reason is being investigated.

Amplify CEO Martin Wilser suggested for the first time on Monday that one of the many commercial vessels that use the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex may have an anchor to blame. The next day the Coast Guard said divers found that a 4,000-foot (1,219 m) section of pipeline approximately 105 feet (32 m) was “later displaced”. It’s bent “like a bow,” Wilser said.

Video of the broken pipeline released by the Coast Guard showed a 13-inch-long (33 cm) thin crack, experts say could indicate a slow leak that was initially difficult to detect.

Federal transportation investigators said preliminary reports suggest the failure “could have been caused by an anchor that bent the pipeline, causing a partial tear.”

On Wednesday, Coast Guard investigators boarded the Rotterdam Express, a giant German-flagged container ship, that was assigned an anchorage where the pipeline broke.

Hapag-Lloyd, the shipping company that operated the ship, said the Coast Guard interviewed the captain and crew and was given access to a logbook showing the ship’s locations. Later, the Coast Guard called the company to say that Rotterdam was no longer under investigation for the spill, the company said. The Coast Guard did not comment.

What is the environmental impact?

It would depend on how much oil is in there.

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Local officials, who initially feared an environmental catastrophe, have recently expressed hope that the total leak will be less than initially feared. So far, only a handful of oil birds have been recovered. Teams are looking for affected animals in the spill area and beyond. Environmentalists say it’s too soon to know how many seabirds, marine mammals and other animals will eventually be affected by the oily film that covers marshy areas and floats on the ocean – or for how long.

Researchers say it will take some time to understand the effect on animals. They are starting to learn about some of the long-term effects from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And many more problems remain unseen as components of oil build up beneath the surface of the ocean.

Outside the water by the rig, there is no visible shine and no smell of oil, much like the smell that spread to Huntington Beach in the days following the incident.


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