A Review of the Nigerian Energy Industry

Decade-old oil spill ‘much worse’ than thought

17 April 2015, News Wires – An oil spill off the coast of Louisiana caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 continues more than a decade later and is likely much bigger than the operator or the US government have previously admitted, according to a report.

taylor oil sheen
Taylor oil sheen (Photo: Upstreamonline)

The spill dates back to the storm in September 2004, which caused underwater mudslides that brought down a platform in Mississippi Canyon Block 20 operated by New Orleans-based Talyor Energy, a privately held independent that has since sold off most of its assets.

The mudslides buried 28 shallow-water wells about 10 miles off Louisiana’s coast, making it difficult to stop oil leaks caused when the platform fell, the Associated Press reported.

Taylor has maintained for years after the initial spill that the leak was minor and comparable to dozens of minor pollution incidents that occur regularly in the US Gulf, according to the AP.

The US government has estimated the leak amounted to about a half barrel per day of oil in 2008 to an average of just 0.29 barrels over the next five years. Tayloy said in court papers in February this year that miles-long sheens spotted near the spill site have an average volume of less than 0.09 barrels per day.

However, a AP review of more than 2300 pollution reports since 2008 found the spill volumes are likely much higher. According to the AP, the average sheen size between April 2008 through August 2014 was two square miles with an average volume of nearly 0.3 barrels.

Since then, the daily average sheen size grew to eight square miles with an average volume of 2.2 barrels, AP said.

As methods of spill-size estimations have improved, all signs suggest the spill was much bigger than reported for much of the last 10 years, AP reported, citing comments from the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard now says that around 381 barrels have been spotted in slicks over the past seven months, which is about six times higher than the agency’s 2013 estimate.

Experts who have been watching the spill said the average daily leak rate since 2004 could be as high as 21 bpd, and as low as about a barrel per day, with between 7143 and 33,333 barrels leaked so far, according to AP.

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. The agency reportedly said in 2008 that the spill posed a “significant threat” to the environment. There is no evidence so far that the oil has reached shore, AP said.

The Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement also did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

A message left for Taylor was not expected to be returned until Friday, Upstream was told. The company, founded by legendary Gulf Coast oilman Patrick Taylor, sold off almost all of its assets to a joint venture between Korea National Oil Corporation and Samsung in 2008.

The AP report comes just days before the five-year anniversary of the deadly Macondo blowout and resulting oil spill, which gushed around 4.9 million barrels of oil into the US Gulf over 87 days in 2010 from a well operated by BP.

– Upstream

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