Ruptured oil pipeline off California approved for repairs

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Texas oil company has been granted permission to repair an undersea pipeline that ruptured off the coast of Southern California a year ago, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and forcing the closure of beaches and fisheries

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted approval to Amplify Energy Corp. on Friday, clearing the way to rebuild the aging pipeline that burst months after it apparently weakened when it was caught by ship anchors adrift in a storm.

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On October 1, 2021, the rupture spilled about 25,000 gallons (94,600 liters) of oil into the Pacific Ocean, closed miles of beaches for a week, closed fisheries for months, and covered birds and wetlands with oil.

The approval to rebuild the pipeline that runs from an oil rig in Huntington Beach to tanks in Long Beach comes less than a month after Amplify pleaded guilty to federal charges of negligently discharging oil. The Houston-based company and two subsidiaries also agreed not to file a plea in state court for polluting the water and killing birds.

Amplify said the approval will allow it to remove and replace damaged pipe segments on the ocean floor.

The work is estimated to take up to a month after a barge is in place. If it passes a series of safety tests after being fixed, the company said it expects to begin operations in the first quarter of 2023.

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Environmentalists who want to shut down the pipeline criticized the approval of the permit and renewed calls for an end to offshore oil operations.

“The Biden administration has just increased the risk of another ugly oil spill on the beautiful California coast,” said Brady Bradshaw of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, people who live near offshore drilling infrastructure are all too familiar with this abusive cycle of drill, spill, repeat.”

On Wednesday, the environmental group sued the federal government for allowing the platform where the pipeline originated to operate with outdated plans that indicated the platform should have been decommissioned more than a decade ago. The suit also said the Office of Ocean Energy Management failed to review and require revisions to the plan, despite the spill.

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Amplify claimed the spill would not have occurred if two ships had not dragged their anchors through the pipeline and damaged it during a storm in January 2021. It said it was not notified of the snagging of the anchor until after the spill.

Although the size of the spill was not as bad as initially feared, US prosecutors said the company should have been able to shut down the damaged line much sooner if it had recognized the severity of a series of alarms of leak detection during a period of 13 hours. .

The first alarm sounded in the late afternoon of Oct. 1, 2021, but workers misinterpreted the cause, according to the federal plea agreement.

As the alarm sounded throughout the night, workers shut down the pipeline to investigate and then restarted it after deciding it was a false alarm. This drew in more oil.

It wasn’t until after daybreak that a boat identified the spill and the line was cut.

As part of a federal court settlement to pay a $7 million fine and nearly $6 million in costs incurred by agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, the company and subsidiaries agreed to install a new leak detection system and train employees to identify and respond to potential leaks. leaks

The company agreed to plead guilty to six state misdemeanor charges and pay $4.9 million in penalties and fines as part of a settlement.



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