Divers searching for the source of an ongoing oil spill in the wake of Hurricane Ida that appeared in the Gulf of Mexico have identified that broken one-foot diameter pipeline displaced from a trench on the ocean floor.
Talos Energy, the Houston-based company currently paying for the cleanup, said in a statement issued Sunday evening that the burst pipeline does not belong to them.
In a statement to the BBC, Talos Energy said the company “will continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to identify the source of the release and co-ordinate a successful response.”
Divers also identified two additional four-inch pipelines in the area that are open and apparently abandoned, The Associated Press reported. The company’s statement did not make clear if oil was leaking from the two smaller pipelines, but satellite images reviewed by AP on Saturday appeared to show at least three different slicks in the same area, the largest drifting more than a dozen miles eastward along the Gulf coast.
AP first reported Wednesday that aerial photos showed a miles-long brown and black oil slick spreading about 2 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The broken pipe is in relatively shallow water about 34 feet deep.
An oil slick seen south of Port Fourchon, La., on Sept. 2, 2021. (Maxar Technologies via AP)
Talos said the rate of oil appearing on the surface had slowed dramatically in the last 48 hours and no new heavy black crude had been seen in the last day.
So far, the spill appears to have remained out to sea and has not impacted the Louisiana shoreline. There is not yet any estimate for how much oil was in the water.
Despite stating it was not responsible for the oil in the water, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said Talos Energy had hired Clean Gulf Associates to respond to the suspected spill.
The company has had two 95-foot response vessels on location as they attempt to contain it and recover oil from the water’s surface. Clean Gulf is a nonprofit oil-spill response cooperative that works with the energy exploration and production industry.
Its workers have placed a containment boom in the area to mitigate further spread of the oil. The company’s vessels are also running skimmers that can remove oil from the water. The Coast Guard said only about 42 gallons had been removed so far.
A view of flood damaged buildings are seen as President Joe Biden (not pictured) inspects the damage from Hurricane Ida on the Marine One helicopter during an aerial tour of communities in Laffite, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, La., on Sept. 3, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)
Coast Guard experts were monitoring reports and satellite imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine the scope of the spill, the spokesman said.
After AP published the photos, the Environmental Protection Agency tasked a specially outfitted survey aircraft to fly over that refinery on Thursday, as well as other industrial sites in the area hardest hit by the hurricane’s 150-mph winds and storm surge.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said a state assessment team sent to the Alliance Refinery observed a spill of heavy oil being addressed with booms and absorbent pads. A levee meant to protect the plant had breached, allowing floodwaters to flow in during the storm and then back out as the surge receded.
State environmental officials said there was also no estimate yet available for how much oil might have spilled from the Phillips 66 refinery.
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana on Aug. 29 as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.
The U.S.death toll has risen to over 60 while hundreds of thousands of Americans were left without power.
In New York, 17 people died from the storm, four in Westchester County and the rest in New York City, Reuters reported, while a spokesperson for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed 27 people had died and four people are still missing.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said 13 people had now died in the state, one more than he reported Saturday, while in Pennsylvania the storm has killed at least four people, and Connecticut and Maryland each reported a death.
President Joe Biden approved New Jersey’s emergency’s disaster declaration late Sunday, and has made similar approvals for states including Louisiana and New York.