Los Angeles/New York - A faulty valve at a petroleum pipeline pump station ruptured early on Thursday in an industrial corner of Los Angeles, spewing crude oil 12m into the air, onto the roof of a strip club next door, and leaving four people sick from the fumes.
An estimated 38 000 litres of oil gushed from the pipeline before it was shut down and the spill was halted, soaking an area about a half-block long, Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Jaime Moore said.
The company that runs the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline LP, a unit of Plains Pipeline LP, put the volume of the spill at “less than 450 barrels” based on current field inspections.
Firefighters prevented oil from running into storm drains or manhole covers by hastily building a 60cm-tall wall of sand fetched from a nearby cement shop, Moore said.
Four people from a medical supply building were made sick by fumes and two were taken to a hospital, fire department officials said.
Plains said the smell “may cause a nauseous feeling, but it poses no danger to responders or neighbours”.
Oil spilled for 45 minutes after the pipeline was shut because of gravity and residual pressure in the line, Moore said. The pipeline runs from the San Joaquin Valley in central California to a storage facility in Long Beach.
Moore said there was no sign that oil had seeped into the water table or into the Los Angeles River, which runs adjacent to the Atwater Village district where the pump station is located.
Plains said later on Thursday that the crude leaked from its 200km, 110 000 barrel-per-day Line 2000 pipeline. The company was not sure how long the line would be shut.
“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.”
Moore said the 10 patrons and an unknown number of employees at the adult entertainment venue were not harmed despite oil cascading over walls, the roof and into the ventilation system.
Line 2000 runs parallel to Plains' Line 63. Shares of Plains All American closed down 0.28 percent at $56.77.
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.
Company spokesman Fred Muir said he did not know how long it would take to repair the damage. The cleanup was expected to take 24 hours.
The Long Beach terminal serves refineries in the area, including those run by Phillips 66, Valero Energy and Tesoro.- Reuters