Gulf of Mexico oil spill hits 16,000 barrels (672,000 gallons)
Following reports on Monday that up to 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from a damaged pipeline operated by LLOG, the oil spill size estimates have now almost doubled.
According to the Coast Guard, LLOG reported Wednesday that the estimated amount of discharged oil may now be approximately 16,000 barrels (672,000 gallons). The pipeline is used to feed oil into LLOG’s nearby Delta House platform.
The Coast Guard and BSEE have been coordinating with the responsible party and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to locate and respond to any oil that reaches the surface.
“Multiple daily over flights and remotely operated underwater vehicle inspections have been conducted with no recoverable oil detected. Skimming vessels from Clean Gulf Associates and the Marine Spill Response Corporation remain on standby,” the Coast Guard said on Thursday.
Surface and subsea trajectory models calculated by the responsible party and NOAA indicate that any discharged oil will drift in a southwesterly direction and is not expected to impact the shoreline.
Calculations indicate that the discovery of any recoverable oil is unlikely due to the depth and pressure at which the oil was released.
The oil was discharged from a small crack in a pipeline that was pressurized to more than 3,000 psi and located approximately 5,000 feet under water. This high-pressure discharge through a small opening likely caused the oil to be broken down into small particles and disperse into deep-water currents prior to reaching the surface.
Water samples taken along the trajectory path at various depths have not detected the presence of oil.
“While the reported discharge amount is very significant, we are confident in the calculations completed by the LLOG and NOAA scientists,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern from U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City, Louisiana. “Additionally, the lack of any recoverable oil identified by over flights and subsea inspections conducted throughout the past week supports his explanation.”
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
Worth noting, the international news outlets have been quick to label the spill as the second largest in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico since BP’s Macondo blowout and spill in 2010. While this might be the case, the 16,000 barrels spilled this week are hardly comparable to 3.2 million barrels spilled in the Macondo disaster.