A Shell oil company pipeline spilled about 90,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, May 12, prompting a cleanup response centered on an area of the Gulf about 165 miles southwest of New Orleans and 97 miles south of Port Fourchon.
Shell reported that it identified a subsea wellhead flow line near its Brutus tension-leg platform as the source of the leak. The company said the damaged part of the pipeline has been isolated and production at the Brutus platform suspended. Nearby wells connected to the Brutus platform have also been shut down for now, Shell said.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Shell have dispatched 137 personnel and five boats for cleanup operations consisting of on-water recovery and skimming. As of Saturday the cleanup crews recovered about 24,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water.
The spill forms an oil sheen two miles wide and 13 miles long offshore of Terrebonne Parish, La., which is home to a large community of Houma Native Americans who still rely on a subsistence food supply. ThinkProgress notes that the Houma will be the first to experience the spill’s impact if it harms marine life or washes ashore. So far neither Shell nor the government have reported any harm to sea life and no areas have been closed to fishing.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, is leading the investigation into the cause of the pipeline’s failure and monitoring Shell’s repair plans.
The spill provoked anger from environmental groups and many Gulf Coast residents, who have grown weary of offshore oil spill pollution.
“It’s unacceptable that oil spills have been permitted to become the status quo in the Gulf. From Deepwater Horizon to the Taylor Well to Shell’s latest disaster, we have allowed the region to be perpetually treated as a sacrifice zone — a place where we tolerate pollution and disasters to continue our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.