Ruptured oil pipeline in California may have released up to 105,000 gallons; slicks in ocean stretch 9 miles

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- An underground oil pipeline that ruptured could have released up to 105,000 gallons of crude, with tens of thousands estimated to have gone into the ocean, it was reported Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Times said the company, Plains All American Pipeline, said its "worst case scenario" was based on the line's elevation and flow rate -- which averages about 50,400 gallons an hour.

When the line ruptured Tuesday afternoon, the Times said, oil seeped through the ground to a culvert and flowed into the ocean outside Refugio State Beach. The company estimates about 21,000 gallons of crude went into the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard said a pair of oil slicks are stretching across a combined nine miles of coastline.

While wildlife and state park officials don’t have an estimate on the environmental impact -- its victims were already becoming apparent as birds were seen covered in crude oil.

An oil-soaked bird is photographed near the shore at Refugio State Beach Tuesday. (Credit: Lara Cooper via KTLA)

Investigators said they won’t be able to find a cause for the rupture until they excavate the 24-inch wide line, which was installed in 1987.