Divers ID Source of 'Miles-Long' Oil Slick in Gulf

No one knows yet, though, who the broken pipeline belongs to
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 6, 2021 11:30 AM CDT
Divers at Gulf Oil Spill Site Find Broken Pipeline
In a satellite image, an oil slick is shown on Thursday south of Port Fourchon, La.   (Maxar Technologies via AP)

Divers at the site of an ongoing oil spill that appeared in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida have identified the apparent source as a 1-foot-diameter pipeline displaced from a trench on the ocean floor and broken open. Talos Energy, the Houston-based company currently paying for the cleanup, said in a statement issued Sunday evening that it's not the owner of the busted pipeline. The company said it's working with the US Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to coordinate the response and identify who the ruptured pipeline belongs to.

The broken pipe is in relatively shallow water, at about 34 feet of depth. Two additional 4-inch pipelines were also identified in the area that are open and apparently abandoned. The company's statement didn't make clear if oil was leaking from the two smaller pipelines, but satellite images reviewed by the AP on Saturday appeared to show at least three different slicks in the same area, the largest drifting more than a dozen miles eastward along the Gulf coast. The outlet first reported Wednesday that aerial photos showed a miles-long brown and black oil slick spreading about 2 miles south of Port Fourchon, La.

Talos said the rate of oil appearing on the surface had slowed dramatically in the last 48 hours and no new heavy black crude had been seen in the last day. So far, the spill appears to have remained out to sea and hasn't impacted the Louisiana shoreline. There isn't yet any estimate for how much oil was in the water. The area where the spill is located has been drilled for oil and gas for decades. Federal leasing maps show it contains a latticework of old pipelines, plugged wells, and abandoned platforms, along with newer infrastructure still in use.

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With the source of the oil unclear, Talos hired Clean Gulf Associates to respond to the spill. Clean Gulf, a nonprofit oil-spill response cooperative that works with the energy exploration and production industry, has had two 95-foot vessels at the scene of the spill since Wednesday attempting to contain and recover crude from the water. The Bay Marchand spill is one of dozens of reported environmental hazards that state and federal regulators are tracking in Louisiana and the Gulf following the Category 4 hurricane that made landfall at Port Fourchon a week ago. The region is a major production center of the US petrochemical industry.

(More Gulf oil spill stories.)

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