Pipeline breaks, spills crude oil into Los Angeles neighbourhood

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A malfunction at an oil pipeline pump station spewed crude as high as 40 feet over an industrial area of Los Angeles on Thursday, covering an open lot and the roof of a strip club beside it, and sickening people at a nearby medical building.

The spill was 10,000 gallons and covered a half-mile area, according to Captain Jamie Moore of 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 occurred at a pump station in the Atwater Village area of Los Angeles, according to Plains Pipeline LP, the unit of Plains All American Pipeline, LP

that runs the Plains West Coast pipeline.

The geyser of crude kept up even after the flow was stopped, Moore said.

Plains said it appeared that about 500 barrels or less had leaked. Moore's estimate of 10,000 gallons is about 240 barrels.

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

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

Shares of Plains All American were down 0.7 per cent at US$56.53 (S$70.63) in afternoon trading.

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. "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.