An underground pipeline closed for maintenance spewed thousands of gallons of crude oil last Thursday near the Southern California coast but the mess ended up contained in a lengthy stretch of ravine and never reached nearby beaches.
About 29,000 gallons of oil spilled and flowed at least a quarter-mile in the canyon near Ventura, fire authorities said.
Oil was gushing out of an above-ground box that covers equipment.
Fire crews responded and a pump house operating the line ended up shut down. Firefighters built a dam of dirt to keep the oil from moving farther.
The oil left a black stain down the brush- and tree-filled arroyo.
The line operator, Crimson Pipeline, estimated 25,200 gallons released, said spokeswoman Kendall Klingler. The cause of the spill is under investigation, she said.
The spill was the 11th for Crimson since 2006, with prior releases totaling 313,000 gallons of crude and causing $5.9 million in property damage, according to accident reports submitted by the company to federal regulators.
The largest was a 2008 spill of 280,000 gallons — one of three blamed on an equipment failure. All the spills occurred in Southern California.
The leak Thursday occurred near a valve on an underground line that runs from Ventura to Los Angeles. The line was closed for maintenance and crews had replaced that valve the day before, Klingler said. The line contained 84,000 gallons of crude.
“The initial concern was that there was a chance that it could have made its way further, but the spill was contained very early on and a lot of damage has been mitigated because of that,” Klingler said.
The oil was from a company called Aera Energy.
Firefighters had a training exercise with Crimson and an oil spill cleanup company about two weeks ago, including building a dam as was done Thursday, Ventura County fire Capt. Scott Quirarte said.
Four of the prior Crimson spills were blamed on corrosion and two on excavation damage. An electrical arc from a power pole was the cause of another leak.
Klinger defended the company’s safety record and said most of the past spills ended up caused by third parties.
The company said its California network covers about 1,000 miles and moves nearly 200,000 barrels — 8.4 million gallons — of oil daily.
The Crimson line is an intrastate pipe, meaning it does not cross out of California and is therefore outside of federal jurisdiction, said Artealia Gilliard, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Gilliard said the federal agency was sending personnel to assist on scene but the investigation would be led by California officials.