taylor mc20 oil spill

Oil slick at the Taylor MC20 site. Credit: U.S Coast Guard

Authorities Mark 1 Million Gallons of Oil Contained from ‘Longest-Running Spill in U.S. History’

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3715
July 12, 2022

When Taylor Energy’s MC20 oil platform collapsed due to an underwater mudslide during 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, it set off what has become known as the ‘longest running oil spill in U.S. history,’ which continues to leak in the Gulf of Mexico some 11 miles south of the Louisiana shoreline.

After the collapse of the platform, the oil spill went unnoticed for years until it was identified in 2008 as the source of daily sheening reports. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated that oil continued to leak at a rate of approximately 1 to 55 barrels per day, but the exact amount of oil released to date has never been definitively determined.

This week, the U.S. Coast Guard and partner agencies announced that one million gallons of oil have now contained and collected from the site since a temporary containment system that was finally put in place in April 2019, which collects the vast majority of oil released from the site.

Taylor Energy Oil Spill Containment
An echoscope image showing the toppled platform with no plumes coming from the seafloor following the installation of the containment system.

According to the Coast Guard, the subsea containment system—designed, fabricated, installed, and operated by Couvillion Group—continues to collect an average of 900 gallons of oil per day (equivalent to nearly 21.5 barrels), and as of Tuesday the Coast Guard reports that 1,016,929 gallons have been collected from the MC-20 site in the more than three years since the containment system was set up.

“The near elimination of the surface sheen and collection and removal of more than one million gallons of oil from the site over the previous three years is a major milestone in the Coast Guard’s efforts to contain the MC-20 oil spill that has affected the waters off the Gulf Coast for years,” said Capt. Kelly Denning, the Coast Guard’s Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the incident. “Though the containment system is considered a great success, the federal government is exploring all available response options, including to properly decommission the impacted wells on site.”

In December 2021, the U.S. and Taylor Energy reached a $43 million settlement with Taylor Energy for civil penalties, removal costs and natural resource damages. The settlement stipulated that Taylor Energy transfer all remaining funds in the Taylor Energy Decommissioning Trust to the U.S. to be used to properly decommission the oil wells at the MC-20 site.

In 2022, The Coast Guard says more than $432 million from the Trust have went to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to fund ongoing efforts to plug the well and stop the spill.

The response to the active oil spill continues to be led by the Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Coordinator and is supported by its federal partners including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The terms of the settlement are outlined in the Consent Decree entered by the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on March 17, 2022. Further information about the settlement was made available by the U.S. Department of Justice.

60 Minutes did a great segment on the incident and containment effort earlier this year:

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