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Gulf of Mexico oil leak said to be worse than originally reported

17 September 2018

An article in the Wall Street Journal quotes a new US government study which estimates that up to 10 million gallons of oil a year are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from wells abandoned by Taylor Energy after its rig on the site was destroyed by a hurricane in 2004. The spill has been the subject of ongoing litigation between US agencies and the company.

Stock image
Stock image

The new analysis concludes that between 250 and 700 barrels of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf at the site where Taylor’s oil platform collapsed in Hurricane Ivan in 2004. An underwater landslip caused by the hurricane knocked over the company’s platform, snapped off metal risers and buried well heads in as much as 100 feet of mud.

Nine of the 25 wells on the site were plugged by the spring of 2011, but Taylor says it cannot reach the remaining 16 without the risk of triggering a greater release of oil.

 In the new analysis, experts looked at more than 1,000 satellite images of the oil slick stretching back to 2005 and confirmed that the site shows a continuous discharge of oil that has expanded in size over the past two years.

Taylor argues that it has done all it can to plug the remaining unplugged wells at the Mississippi Canyon site. The company is asking the government to return more than $400 million, the remainder of a $666-million trust account set up in 2008 to cover the cost of decommissioning the wells at the site.

The company says that plumes of oil rising to form the surface sheen could be from oil that is escaping naturally from sediment on the seafloor.

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