A Shell pipeline that ruptured underground near Tracy, Calif., May 20 is the same pipeline that ruptured in the same general area eight months ago, company officials confirmed. Both spills released an estimated 20,000 gallons of crude oil or more.
The pipeline breach occurred in a two-foot diameter pipeline that runs about 200 miles from Martinez, Calif., northeast of Berkeley to Coalinga, southwest of Fresno. The spill was first reported about 3 a.m. Friday after Shell detected a loss of pipeline pressure.
A preliminary test found a split of approximately 18 to 20 inches in length in the pipeline near Interstate 580 on the border of Alameda and San Joaquin Counties. A similar break occurred in the same pipeline on Sept. 17 also near the town of Tracy about 15 miles from the recent spill.
San Joaquin County officials reported the oil spill covered an area 250 feet long by 40 feet wide. The extent of the environmental damage isn’t clear yet.
Shell said it inspected the pipeline after the September spill and found no corrosion problems, opening the troublesome prospect that the company’s tests are inadequate to detect problems or the pipelines that transect California could be harmed by shifting geographic faults.
Environmentalists reiterated concerns about the devastating toll Shell and other oil corporations take on the environment year after year. The California spill comes less than two weeks after Shell spilled more than 90,000 gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and about a year after another giant spill erupted near the Santa Barbara coast.
“Sadly, it’s become undeniable that oil spills will remain the status quo if we continue our dependence on dirty fuels,” said the Sierra Club’s Lena Moffitt in a statement. “This is just Shell’s latest disaster and the company has done nothing to assuage fears that it can stop its reckless actions.”
Patrick Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, told KQED News that the spill’s impact on the environment “could be very serious” because it could harm birds and other animals and contaminate the groundwater.