A 13-inch split was found in a section of pipeline that appears to have been displaced by more than 100 feet off the Orange County coast, according to a team handling the response to an oil spill that closed miles of Southern California coastline.
At a news conference Tuesday, the Coast Guard said a remotely operated observation vehicle was used to spot a bend in about 4,000 feet of the pipeline. Divers confirmed that section of the 17.7-mile oil rig pipeline had been "laterally displaced.”
The Coast Guard said there appeared to be a 13-inch split in pipe -- the likely source of the leak. The Coast Guard said oil is no longer leaking from the gash.
The leak is believed to have occurred about four miles offshore along a pipeline that is 80 to 100 feet below the surface.
Authorities did not say what caused the damage. Coast Guard officials said Monday that investigators were looking into whether a ship’s anchor may have struck a pipeline on the ocean floor.
The spill sent tens of thousands of gallons of heavy crude into the ocean off Huntington Beach. The oil then washed onto miles of beaches and a protected marshland.
Beaches in Orange County could remain closed for weeks or longer, a major hit to the local economy. Coastal fisheries in the area are closed to commercial and recreational fishing.
PHOTOS: Huntington Beach Oil Spill Causes Massive Ecologic Damage
At least eight oiled birds have been recovered. A brown pelican was euthanized due to injuries.
Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said company divers were inspecting the area of the suspected leak reported Saturday, and he expected that by Tuesday there would be a clearer picture of what caused the damage. Willsher also said an anchor from a cargo ship striking the pipeline is “one of the distinct possibilities” behind the leak.
Cargo ships entering the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach routinely pass through the area. Backlogs have plagued the ports in recent months, and several dozen or more of the giant vessels have regularly been anchored as they wait to enter the ports and unload.
Officials also confirmed Tuesday that they received reports of an unknown type of sheen on the water on Friday night, but such reports are common and often turn out to be natural seepage that is often never located.
Crews responded to the area before sunrise Saturday, officials say.
The Coast Guard did not investigate initial reports of an oil spill for nearly 12 hours because it didn't have enough corroborating evidence and was hindered by darkness and a lack of technology, an official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer acknowledged that the Coast Guard was alerted Friday night by a “good Samaritan” that there was a sheen on the water. It put out a broadcast to the many cargo and tanker ships anchored off the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports seeking more information, but did not receive any supporting reports.
Penoyer said it was common to get reports of a sheen near a busy seaport. It would take more than 12 hours before an oil pipeline company reported a spill that could be up to 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of heavy crude.
“In hindsight, it seems obvious, but they didn’t know that at that time,” Penoyer said. “So putting yourself in the position of what they did know, this is a very normal process."
The spill occurred in federal waters at the Elly platform, built in 1980 to process crude oil from two other platforms, which draw from a large reservoir called Beta Field. Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. is the parent company of Beta Offshore. Elly is one of three platforms operated by Beta Operating Co., which also operates Ellen and Eureka nearby. Elly processes oil production from Ellen and Eureka and is fed by some 70 oil wells. The processing platform separates oil from water.
The news came as Gov. Gavin Newsom met with Southern California elected officials and Coast Guard leaders to assess the impact of the oil spill. He proclaimed that offshore drilling operations should be in the state's rear-view mirror.
"It's time once and for all to disabuse ourselves that this has to be part of our future," Newsom said. "This is part of our past. We can moralize and talk about the good old days and we can talk about how important these rigs have been to the prosperity of this country and the middle class.
But at the end of the day, this is about the stale air of normalcy versus the fresh air of progress.
"Right now fossil fuel jobs are literally outnumbered five to one versus clean-energy jobs in the state of California. This does not have to be part of our future."
Newsom's comments echoed those from a host of Democratic elected officials over the past several days calling for an end to offshore drilling.
"What you're seeing happen in this industry is a lot of the larger companies are selling out to smaller companies that don't have the capacity to make sure that these rigs are safe," Newsom said. "You've got federal rigs out there and -- yes, we recognize our responsibility -- state operations that are out there. You're seeing for the first time in history last year in California more permits were afforded for abandonment than new drilling. That's the first time that's happened in state history."
City News Service contributed to this report.