The U.S. Coast Guard, Hilcorp Energy, and a handful of oil remediation companies are working to contain a natural gas and oil spill on the lower Mississippi river near Venice, Louisiana.
The oil spill, which as of Wednesday covered about eight square miles of water and wetlands, was first reported on the afternoon of Monday, March 20, from an abandoned wellhead owned by Hilcorp, a Houston-based oil and gas exploration and production company.
Hilcorp told the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center that it had secured the old wellhead at approximately 9:45 p.m. Tuesday night. First estimates reported the well released about 840 gallons of oil into the water and wetlands, but that volume could rise as workers continue cleanup efforts.
Hilcorp has contracted CUDD Well Control, OMI Environmental Solutions, and Clean Gulf Associates to respond to the spill, the Times-Picayune reported, citing Coast Guard officials.
“Boom, sorbent material, and skimming vessels are being used to reduce the spread of oil and collect oil from the water’s surface,” the news release said. The Coast Guard plans to conduct additional overflights to monitor the spill.
The spill trails another Hilcorp incident that occurred last summer when one of its pipelines was identified as the source that released 4,200 gallons of crude oil into Lake Grande Ecaille on the eastern side of Barataria Bay.
That same month, a group of oyster growers filed a lawsuit against Hilcorp Energy alleging that it smothered entire oyster beds when in Barataria Bay when it dug access channels to its wells by “prop washing” the bottom – a process that involves using tugboat propellers to deepen channels.
Oysters in Barataria Bay already have been struggling to bounce back after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which smothered parts of the ecologically sensitive bay.
Earlier in March, federal regulators told Hilcorp Alaska to repair a broken pipeline in Cook Inlet, Alaska, by May 1 or shut the line down completely. The line has been leaking up to 325,000 cubic feet of methane gas per day since the first week of February – enough gas to fuel about 400 Alaskan homes in the winter.
The regulators also found another pipeline Hilcorp uses to transport oil that runs along the ruptured gas pipeline in Cook Inlet is at risk of breaking, which would inflict far more serious environmental damages.