Container ships wait off the coast of the congested Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Long Beach, California, U.S., October 1, 2021. REUTERS/ Alan Devall

Everything We Know About the Southern California Oil Spill Right Now

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 5677
October 3, 2021

A unified command consisting of Beta Offshore Amplify Energy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR) is responding to the oil spill first reported Saturday approximately 3 miles off the coast of Newport Beach, California, near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The National Transportation Safety Board says it is now investigating the matter.

Here’s what we know so far.

The Coast Guard received an initial report of an oil sheen off the coast of Newport Beach Saturday at approximately 9:10 a.m. The size of the spill was initially reported to be 13 square miles.

The Coast Guard and Huntington Beach Police Department have dispatched aircraft to access the situation.

CDFW-OSPR is monitoring for oiled wildlife. Members of the public who encounter oiled wildlife, do not approach, rather call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926.

Members of the public are also asked to avoid any oiled areas, as oil spill response contractors are working to clean up. Public volunteers are not needed and could actually hinder response efforts, and the Unified Command is requesting that members of the public stay away from the area altogether. The cause of the spill, volume and type of oil are under investigation, according to the Unified Command.

However, the City of Huntington Beach, located just north of Newport Beach, has reported the spill at 126,000 gallons and has blamed a broken pipeline belonging to Beta Offshore, which would be confirmed by the company’s involvement in the Unified Command. The City of Huntington Beach issued a statement Sunday, reading in part:

“Approx. 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from a broken pipeline and are entering HB beaches and wetlands. Beta Offshore is responsible for the spill and is working with the Incident Management Team on repairs and cleanup efforts. The City will work to ensure the responsible parties do everything possible to rectify this environmental disaster…. Our ocean and shorelines are closed indefinitely, FROM SEAPOINT TO THE SANTA ANA RIVER JETTY. Please do not enter the shoreline or water…Protecting our wetlands is one of our highest priorities. The City has deployed over 2,000 feet of protective booms at 7 locations. However, we are seeing oiled wildlife wash ashore.”

The City has also cancelled the Pacific Airshow scheduled for Sunday, a major event for the area.

The map below was shared Sunday by the City of Huntington Beach and shows approximately size and location of the spill:

Map published by City of Huntington Beach

Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy (NYSE: AMPY), proclaims to be “one of the largest oil producers in Southern California. We operate three offshore platforms in the Beta Field, located 12 miles south of Long Beach.” Those three platforms are named Ellen, Eureka and Elly. Platform Elly is a processing platform for both production platforms Ellen and Eureka, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environment.

According to Amplify’s website, “The Beta properties also include the San Pedro Bay Pipeline Company, which owns and operates a 16- inch diameter oil pipeline [on the seabed] that extends approximately 17.5 miles from one of the Beta platforms to the Beta pump station located onshore at the Port of Long Beach, California, and an onshore tankage and metering facility.” Amplify lists Beta’s production as 3.6 thousand barrels of oil per day on average in Q2 2021.

Here’s where it gets a little interesting…

The location of the spill, 3 miles off Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, also happens to be just south of where there were more than 82 ships anchored and awaiting to enter the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as of Friday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

Credit: Marine Exchange of Southern California

The southernmost anchorage, the Huntington Beach Contingency Anchorage, was occupied with 8 containerships and 2 tankers as of last Wednesday, the Marine Exchange of Southern California reported on Sep. 29. It’s likely this anchorage has remained full.

AIS screenshot as of 3:38 PM PT, Sunday, October 3, 2021. Image courtesy MarineTraffic.com

Skytruth on Sunday published satellite imagery of the spill from as early as Friday evening, and speculated that perhaps a ship’s anchor may be responsible. It also identified several ships in the area on Facebook.

While we can’t confirm this, it wouldn’t be the first time a ship’s anchor has struck a known subsea cable or pipeline. But regardless of whether or not a ship is responsible, if the oil spill impacted those anchorages it could create even more problems for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are already backed up by congestion.

Update: Reporting indicates that the spill will not impact operations at the Port of Los Angeles, but some vessels will need to be cleaned.

The Port of Los Angeles has now confirmed on Twitter that some vessels may need to be cleaned but operations and arrivals aren’t impacted.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday evening it is now sending two investigators to investigate the matter. However, it should be noted that NTSB’s is charged by Congress with investigating significant accidents in “railroad, highway, marine and pipeline,” according to its website.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent the below bulletin at 10/03/2021 06:09 PM EDT:

UPDATE 1: Unified command continues response to oil spill off Newport Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The unified command is continuing its response Sunday to the reported oil spill off Newport Beach.

All available actions are being taken to ensure the safety of the public and response personnel, to control the source and recover spilled materials, to maximize the protection of environmentally sensitive areas and minimize impact to maritime commerce.

This response is currently a 24/7 operation and response efforts are scheduled to continue until federal and state officials determine that the response to the crude oil spill is complete.

As of Sunday, a total of 1,218 gallons of oily water mixture have been recovered, nine boats were dispatched for oil spill recovery operations, three shoreline assessment teams have been dispatched and 3,700 feet of boom have been deployed. 

Beaches have been closed starting at Seapoint Drive south to the Santa Ana River. Newport Beach has a soft closure and requests that the public stay out of the water from Tower 44 north to the Santa Ana River. 

There are no impacts to commercial traffic and the Huntington Beach air show has been cancelled. 

One oiled Ruddy duck has been collected and is receiving veterinary care. Other reports of oiled wildlife are being investigated. The Oiled Wildlife Care Network has been activated. For your safety and the safety of the animals, the public is asked to not attempt to capture oiled animals. Report oiled wildlife to 1-877-UCD-OWCN (1-877-823-6926).

Public volunteers are not requested at this time, but information can be found at https://calspillwatch.wildlife.ca.gov/Volunteer.

A claims number has been established for any individuals or businesses who feel they may have been affected by the incident (866) 985-8366 and reference Pipeline P00547.

The unified command consists of the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR) and Amplify Energy. Supporting agencies are the cities of Long Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

The investigation continues into the cause of the spill.

Update: U.S. Coast Guard issued the below bulletin at 10/03/2021 11:43 PM EDT:

The unified command continues its response Sunday to the oil spill off the coast of Orange County.

Fourteen boats conducted oil recovery operations Sunday afternoon. Three Coast Guard boats enforced a safety zone off 1,000 yards around oil spill boats.

Four aircraft were dispatched for overflight assessments. 

Shoreside response was conducted by 105 government agency personnel.

Approximately 3,150 gallons of oil have been recovered from the water and 5,360 feet of boom has been deployed. 

The investigation continues into the cause of the spill.

Update (Monday, Oct. 4): During a Monday afternoon press conference, Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said they were looking into whether a ship’s anchor may have been to blame for pipeline leak, but he couldn’t provide more details at this time.

Meanwhile, Skytruth provided the below update identifying a ship as being in the area near where it believes is the source of the leak, but later said it may have ruled that ship out as being too far away. AIS shows the ship in question, Rotterdam Express, was taken into port Sunday afternoon, where it remains currently. Again, this has not been confirmed through official channels.

Amplify Energy issued the following statement on Monday:

HOUSTON, Oct. 04, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Amplify Energy Corp. (NYSE: AMPY) (“Amplify”, “Amplify Energy” or the “Company”) announced today that on Saturday, October 2, 2021, Beta Offshore (a subsidiary of Amplify Energy) first observed and notified the US Coast Guard of an oil sheen approximately four (4) miles off the coast in Southern California and initiated its Oil Spill Prevention and Response Plan. 

The Company has sent a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to investigate and attempt to confirm source of the release.

As a precautionary measure, all of the Company’s production and pipeline operations at the Beta Field have been shut down.

Amplify Energy is a fully engaged member of and working cooperatively with the unified command, consisting of the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR).

This is a developing story… check back for updates. More on this story as it developes will be published here.

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