Despite preparation, California pipeline operator may have taken hours to stop leak

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LOS ANGELES, Oct 8 (Businesshala) – The company operating a pipeline that spills an estimated 3,000 barrels of oil from California into the Pacific Ocean has an 800-page manual on how to deal with an oil spill – but it’s unclear whether its employees followed them or not. processes.

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Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp and several state and federal regulatory agencies have provided separate accounts of what happened on October 2, when the pipeline spilled, which eroded beaches, killed wildlife and beaches. With miles of fishing stops.

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The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said that Beta Offshore, an Amplify subsidiary that operates the pipeline, was transferred to its control room at about 2:30 a.m. Pacific time (5:30 a.m. EDT) on October 2. Low pressure warning received. 2, Indication of break in line.

The leak-detection alarm should have triggered rapid phone calls to managers, boat crews, regulators and the US Coast Guard, according to 10 former and current BETA offshore employees, and rapid moves to shut down pipelines and platforms. Should have picked up. and contractors as well as a copy of the company’s spill response plan reviewed by Businesshala.

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But according to PHMSA’s timeline, the San Pedro Bay Pipeline didn’t close until 6 a.m., three and a half hours later.

Amplify CEO Martin Wilser has said the company was not aware of the spill until the middle of the morning.

“We were not aware of any leak till 8:09 am (Pacific) on Saturday,” he told a news conference on Wednesday. He noted that the line closed at around 6 a.m., but didn’t explain why or for how long, adding: “We weren’t pumping oil at 8:09 a.m. when we actually needed oil on the water.” There was a search.”

In response to a reporter’s question about the alarm at 2:30 on Wednesday, Wilsher said: “We were not aware of any alarm at 2:30.”

He also said the company is examining the timeline and “working with regulators to see if this is something that should have been looked at.”

Amplify did not respond to requests for comment on this comment. The company also did not respond to several other requests for comment.

Tom Haug, a third-party contractor listed as an Incident Commander in the response plan, referred questions to Amplify’s official spokesman.

The 16-inch-diameter, 17-mile-long pipeline runs from Amplify’s Alley oil production platform offshore to Long Beach, where oil is stored and transported for refining.

The volume of the spill is smaller than others that have led to regulatory changes, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which released more than 5 million barrels of oil into the water.

Still, it raises questions about the effectiveness of government-mandated spill response plans to ensure that companies respond quickly to reduce pollution and public hazards.

The cause of the California spill is being investigated. Officials are probing whether the ship was broken after hitting its anchor. Investigators found that a section of the pipeline had extended 105 feet and had a 13-inch split running parallel to the pipe.

According to the US National Response Center, the designated contact point for environmental accidents, residents and nearby ships have said they first noticed foul-smelling and glowing waters on Friday evening. The US Coast Guard has said that these types of reports are common, and do not always indicate an outbreak.

“In general — for spill response — don’t delay. Plan ahead. Over-react and stand up if necessary. Don’t be behind on the curve,” in creating a 15-Step Action Plan for Response Amplify’s response plan says. spread

under pressure

Amplify produced 3,600 barrels per day on its platform in California in the second quarter of this year, making it the second largest offshore producer in that state.

Federal regulators mandated in 1994 that operators be trained to shut down pipelines and platforms in the event of a leak or rupture. Former employees of Amplify say that the company has given such training in the last two years.

Amplify did not confirm whether those efforts were continuing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But records from the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response show betas made using the Microsoft Teams platform virtually an exercise last year. Another was scheduled for the next month.

Two former employees said software built specifically for the platform monitors pressure conditions at pumps along the pipeline.

Sensors on the pipeline can notify an operator on the alley platform if the pressure changes, triggering an immediate shutdown and stopping the flow of crude oil into the pipeline.

“After a barrel was detected, the pipeline should have been shut down,” said a former employee familiar with the line’s operations.

Wilser said this week that Amplify employees monitored the pipeline by boat weekly. The company reviews the oil’s chemical properties to make sure iron levels aren’t high, which would indicate a pipe malfunction, said another former employee familiar with the process.

A third former employee recalled that inspectors from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) often visited the platform and reviewed its pipeline connections. Inspections were meticulous and lasted for weeks, and quotes were issued for even the smallest items, such as rust on a railing, one employee reported.

Inspection reports from two years ago determined the pipeline was good and previous inspections revealed anomalies in the metal walls, according to a summary of an inspector’s report from October 2019, filed with the BSEE in April 2020 .

Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Alt and Nicola Groom; Editing by Rich Waldmanis, David Gaffen and Gerry Doyle


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