Los Angeles oil spill mopped up with vacuums, soap, diapers

Crews have vacuumed up most of about 38,000 litres of crude oil that sprayed into Los Angeles streets after a high-pressure pipe burst.

Officials downscale size of spill to 38,000 litres from earlier estimate of 190,000 litres

Crude oil spilled over an 800-metre area in Los Angeles on Thursday due to a break in an above-ground pipeline. (Phil McCarten/Reuters)

Thousands of litres of crude that spilled onto a Los Angeles street Thursday was being cleaned up with absorbent diapers, soap, and vacuums.

The oil, which spread over a one-kilometre-long area, came from a break in an above-ground Plains West Coast pipeline, the city fire department said.

The spill was 38,000 litres, according to Captain Jamie Moore with the Los Angeles Fire Department. The pipeline runs from the San Joaquin Valley in California to Long Beach, Moore said.

The break in the pipeline was at a pump station in an industrial area near San Fernando Road in Atwater Village, the fire department said.

The Plains West Coast pipeline is run by Plains Pipeline LP, a unit of Plains All American, which confirmed that the leak occurred at its pump station.

Plains said it appeared that about 500 barrels or less had leaked. Moore's estimate of 38,000 litres is about 240 barrels.

Plains said it also appeared that the leak had stemmed from a valve failure, causing oil to spray. The line was shut quickly, and crude appeared to have been contained, the company said.

A geyser of crude spewed six metres high after the high-pressure pipe burst. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

Moore said the pipeline is 50.8 cm in diameter, matching the description of Plains's 209 km, 130,000-barrel-per-day Line 2000 in the company's annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Plains did not identify the specific pipeline. Line 2000 runs parallel to Plains' Line 63 system with a main 110,000 bpd pipeline.

The pipeline shutdown had not affected cash product prices on Thursday morning, as cash gasoline and diesel prices in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets were lower than on Wednesday, traders said.

"We are on hand vacuuming up the spilled oil, mopping up what's left behind and pressure washing the area with a soap solution," Moore said.

"The responders are mopping what's on the ground with absorbent diapers." The cleanup is expected to take 24 hours.

Two women were transported to a nearby hospital following the incident and are in "fair" condition, according to an update on the fire department's website.

The pipeline was shut off remotely, and the incident shut down a section of Atwater Village, a local NBC affiliate reported.

Video footage from the NBC affiliate showed oil spraying about six metres in the air from the leak, which happened at an oil-gathering station situated next to a strip club, The Gentlemen's Club, which was evacuated, according to media reports.

"Oil is knee-high in some areas," the fire department said early on Thursday. "A handful of commercial businesses are affected."

The Long Beach terminal serves refineries in the area, including those run by Phillips 66, Valero Energy Corp and Tesoro Corp.

The leak polluted the Atwater Village section of Los Angeles. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

With files from CBC


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