An oil leak off the coast of Louisiana spread for miles and no one knows who is responsible

Talos Energy responded to the notification of an oil leak off the Louisiana coast following Hurricane Ida by sending a team.

On Sunday, divers found the leaky pipe in Bay Marchand. Talos placed a containment dome over it on Monday. This “allows for the recovery and transfer to surface vessels of the oil,” Talos stated in a Tuesday release.

Talos claims that its operations are not responsible for the oil. Although it claimed it was a prior lesssee on the block that was the source of the oil leak, the company stated it was contacted. However, it had stopped production in 2017 and had removed all its infrastructure.

Who is to blame for this spillage? This is still to be determined.

This shouldn’t surprise given the number of abandoned wells and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. Wilma Subra is a chemist at the non-profit Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

“If you look at all the pipelines on a map offshore, it looks just like spaghetti. You could throw spaghetti in there. Subra stated that there are pipelines everywhere, everywhere and everywhere.

She said that there are many pipelines out, both old and newer, and she was pleased to see Talos get rid of some of them.

A Government Accountability Office report this year states that “the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement” has allowed the offshore oil and natural gas industry to leave 97% of its pipelines (18,000 miles), on the seafloor, when they are not in use since the 1960s. If not decommissioned properly, pipelines can contain oil and gas.

“The bureau does not have a strong oversight process for ensuring integrity of approximately 8,600 miles of offshore oil and natural gas pipelines located in the Gulf of Mexico,” nor does the bureau have a “robust process to address environmental and safety hazards posed by leaving abandoned pipelines on the seafloor.”

A Department of the Interior official responded to the GAO’s report in a letter and attached it as an appendix.

“BSEE has started to implement GAO’s recommendation to further create, finalize and implement updated pipeline regulations in order to address long-standing limitations regarding (1) its ability to ensure active pipeline integreity and(2) address safety and environment risks associated with decommissioning,” stated Laura Daniel-Davis (principal deputy assistant secretary, Land and Mineral Management at the US Department of the Interior).

According to Lt. John Edwards, members of the US Coast Guard National Strike Force flew over the Bay Marchand region Sunday and saw no oil droplets in the area. He said that the source of the discharge was not known.

Talos stated that it had observed pipelines belonging to other companies that were likely affected by Ida. It also identified a 12-inch pipe it claimed was the source of the release.

The company stated that Talos had conducted both subsea sonar scans and physical inspections to confirm that Talos assets weren’t the cause or source of the release.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom stated that the investigation will include the search for the responsible party.

Talos stated that it is working with the Coast Guard, other federal agencies, and state and federal agencies to determine the ownership of the pipeline damaged and to coordinate a response to the spillage.

The USCG stated that it is prioritizing approximately 350 oil spillage “incidents” for further investigation by federal, state, and local authorities in the wake Hurricane Ida. It was a Category 4 storm that impacted the Gulf Coast.

Wisdom stated that these incidents are reported by the public and can range from minor to significant pollution reporting.

He said that although they could be duplicate reports of a single thing, they are being treated as an individual and will be inspected.

Subra said that the Bay Marchand leak was an example of what can happen when there is a hurricane, or any front that disrupts Gulf waters. This is because of the many old pipelines and abandoned wells that are there. Many of these have not been plugged.

Regulators reported that more than 95% of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production facilities were shut down on the day Ida arrived.

Tuesday’s statement by the BSEE stated that it “continues monitoring offshore oil and gas operators and rigs in the Gulf as these return to platforms and rigs following the storm”.