Divers searching for the origin of a significant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — one of many spotted off the coast of Louisiana after Hurricane Ida — have discovered three damaged pipelines near the spill, though cloudy conditions on the seabed prevented the team from finding the source.
The Gulf of Mexico is covered in a tangle of pipes, wells and other energy infrastructure, much of which is disused due to generations of oil extraction there.
Late Sunday, Talos Energy, the oil and gas producer tasked with the cleanup, said it did not own the three damaged pipelines. The Coast Guard had previously said the spill came from an old pipeline used by Talos, the former holder of offshore leases in the area. The Houston-based company was doing an intensive cleanup with a lift boat and other vessels.
NewsMadura examined pipeline permits for the area and identified nine pipeline segments operated by seven oil and gas producers within a two-mile radius of the leak’s observed origin. Some pipelines were abandoned years ago.
The Times first reported on the spill and cleanup on Friday. Here’s what we know so far about the disaster:
Where does the oil come from?
In Sunday’s statement, Talos Energy said it was not responsible for the leak off the coast of Port Fourchon in Louisiana. Instead, the company said its divers found a broken 12-inch pipeline, not owned by Talos, which appeared to have been moved from its original location. There were also two smaller abandoned pipelines in the area, the company said.
Talos stopped production in the area in 2017. The company said its divers and sonar scans had confirmed that the wells had been clogged and the pipelines had been removed.
The company moved a lift boat closer to the leak to make it easier for divers to reach the site and confirm the source, said a person with direct knowledge of the cleanup but who was not authorized to speak publicly about the efforts.
Lt. John Edwards of the US Coast Guard said it had been made aware of the divers’ findings. He said the original source of the discharge was unknown.
What is the status of the leak?
The rate at which oil reaches the surface has “slowed down dramatically” in the past 48 hours, and no new heavy black crude has been seen in the past day, Talos said.
Lieutenant Edwards said the gloss in the area seemed to be fading. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported a spate of possible spills in a nearby area, as well as on the other side of the Gulf.
The Coast Guard continued to oversee the cleanup and efforts to mitigate any environmental threats in the wake of the storm, Lieutenant Edwards said.
Are other pipes close to the leak site?
Nine pipeline segments, both used and abandoned, are near the leak site.
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of pipeline giant Kinder Morgan, operated a 12-inch pipeline in the area, permits show. The pipeline was installed in 1966 and abandoned in 2012, according to data from the Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management.
The data also shows that oil and gas companies Cantium, Cox Oil and Energy XXI GOM each operate six-inch pipelines near the spill. Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and the private Kinetica Partners also operate or operate pipelines in the area, the data shows.
The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday morning.