The bad news is yet another stray oil slick has been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico about 130 miles southeast of New Orleans. The good news is that the federal government appears to be making a real attempt to find the source of the stray oil, which as of Wednesday had formed a slick covering an area about a mile wide and 10 miles long.
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) says it has deployed a remote underwater vehicle to the Gulf in an effort to find where the oil is coming from. The agency said the vehicle is surveying out-of-commission oil wells that have been plugged, while also searching for natural seepage. At the same time, BSEE says it has instructed pipeline operators in the area to inspect their lines.
If this latest spill turns out to be manmade, then two oil drilling platforms in the area operated by Royal Dutch Shell PLC may be the likely culprit. The company said Thursday it is confident the oil isn’t coming from its operations.
On Thursday the U.S. Coast Guard said the oil giant had arranged for a skimmer vessel to be on scene to assist with cleanup should the survey determine that the oil is coming from its deep-sea operations.
“We are treating this very seriously, as we do all reports of possible pollution. And, in consultation with our state and local partners, we will ensure that all measures are taken to fully investigate and, if necessary, mitigate any impact this could potentially have,” said Jonathan Burton, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit, Morgan City, and captain of the Port of Morgan City.
This latest oil spill represents yet another slick in what seems to have become a routine parade of oil slicks in the Gulf. For instance, a number of Gulf flyovers conducted by On Wings of Care have documented large oil slicks south of Louisiana in the vicinity of BP’s Macondo well, ground-zero for the massive oil spill that released hundreds of millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf in 2010.
Other wells just 10 miles from Macondo have been leaking since Hurricane Ivan blew through the area in 2004. Those leaks have been attributed to offshore wells owned by Taylor Energy Co. LLC of New Orleans and they have gone unfixed for the better part of decade. Then, in December, Royal Dutch Shell announced that its Appomattox well off the Alabama coast spilled 319 barrels of oil and drilling fluids into the Gulf, about 20 miles from the Macondo well.