Cleanup crews respond to sizeable Gulf oil spill following Hurricane Ida

The U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday cleaners are responding to a sizeable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Ida.

The ongoing leak appears to be from an underwater source in an offshore well lease about two miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

The reported location is near a mile-long brown and black oil spill seen in aerial photographs first published Wednesday by The Associated Press.

So far, the increasing spillage appears to have remained in the ocean and has not affected the Louisiana coastline.

There is still no estimate of how much oil was in the water, but recent satellite imagery, verified by AP on Saturday, appeared to show the slick drifting more than a dozen miles east along the Gulf Coast.

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Coast Guard spokesman Lt. John Edwards said the response teams are monitoring reports and satellite imagery to determine the extent of the discharge.

He said the source of the pollution is in Bay Marchand, Block 4, and is believed to be crude oil from an underwater pipeline owned by Talos Energy.

Brian Grove, spokesman for the Houston-based energy company, said it hired Clean Gulf Associates to respond to the oil spill, even though the company believes it is not responsible for the oil in the water.

Clean Gulf Associates, a nonprofit oil spill control cooperative that works with the energy exploration and production industries, responded to the scene on Wednesday.

Workers have set up a containment boom in the area to curb the further spread of the oil.

The company’s ships also operate skimmers that can remove oil from the water, though the Coast Guard said only about 42 gallons have been removed so far.

Talos is investigating the cause of the leak, but a statement provided by Grove says field observations suggest that the company’s assets are not the source.

Talos previously leased Bay Marchand, Block 5, but stopped production there in 2017, plugged its wells and removed all pipeline infrastructure by 2019, the company said.

Talos said two 95-foot forceps were dispatched to the scene to conduct oil exploration operations.

A lifting boat equipped for diving operations has also been mobilized and is expected to arrive on Saturday. The Coast Guard said the company announced that divers would sink to the bottom on Sunday to determine the source of the leak.

“Talos will continue to work closely with the US Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to identify the source of the release and coordinate a successful response,” the company said in a statement.

“The company’s top priority is the safety of all staff and the protection of the public and the environment.

“The Bay Marchand leak is one of dozens of reported environmental threats that state and federal regulators in Louisiana and the Gulf are responding to following the Category 4 hurricane that landed in Port Fourchon on Sunday.

The region is an important manufacturing center for the US petrochemical industry.

The AP also first reported on Wednesday pictures from a National Atmospheric and Oceanic Survey showing extensive flooding and what appeared to be petroleum in the waters of the sprawling Phillips 66 Alliance refinery along the Mississippi south of New Orleans.

After AP released the photos, the Environmental Protection Agency hired a specially equipped survey aircraft on Thursday to overfly this refinery as well as other industrial sites in the area hardest hit by the 150 mph winds and storm surge from the hurricane.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said a state assessment team sent to the Alliance Refinery observed a spill of heavy fuel oil that was disposed of with booms and absorbent pads.

A dam that was supposed to protect the facility was breached so that floodwater could flow in during the storm and then flow out again when the rise subsided. State environmental officials said there is still no estimate of how much oil may have spilled from the refinery.

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