Coast Guard Suspects Anglo-Suisse Well in Weekends Louisiana Spill [UPDATE]

Read update from USCG below

HOUSTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that oil that has recently washed onto Louisiana beaches is similar to crude that leaked over the weekend from an oil company’s idle offshore platform. But the company, Houston-based Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners LLC, begs to differ.

Initial tests show that oil fouling a half mile worth of beaches, spread over 30 miles of shoreline, and a crude release from the Anglo-Suisse platform “are a close match,” Chief Petty Officer John Edwards told Dow Jones Newswires. But Anglo-Suisse said through a spokeswoman that fewer than five gallons of oil spilled from the well, which it was trying to permanently seal over the weekend; the company says it has begun an investigation in order to prove that the crude that began washing ashore is not its fault. The well, drilled in shallow water, is located 30 miles offshore.

In a written statement, Anglo-Suisse said it was “surprised by this suggestion” that its oil could have ended on the shore, but the company said it was nevertheless helping clean up the spill.

The spat further muddles the mystery about the origin of the crude, a hard puzzle to solve in a region that’s full of underwater pipelines, platforms and wells, many of them decades-old. Anglo-Suisse’s willingness to help despite its misgivings also illustrates the heightened sensitivity that has followed every potential oil spill since BP PLC’s (BP, BP.LN) Deepwater Horizon disaster last year. The Coast Guard has downplayed the theory that the oil that just washed ashore could come from the Deepwater Horizon spill, saying that it isn’t weathered enough.

Previously the Coast Guard had been paying for clean-up and containment efforts from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which holds oil royalties for such incidents.

Kelly Kimberly, a spokeswoman for Anglo-Suisse said that the five gallons of oil leaked from the well over the course of three days starting Friday, as crews worked to permanently seal a platform that hadn’t been producing oil since 2005.

The Coast Guard has yet to put forth an official estimate of the volume of crude that has made landfall, but Edwards said that it “appears to be more than a few gallons of oil.”

No new landfalls have been reported since Monday, Edwards said.

Local and federal officials have struggled to pinpoint the source of the crude, since it began washing ashore on Friday. On Tuesday they concluded that it was definitely Louisiana sweet crude, typically produced in the Gulf of Mexico, and ruled out refineries or tankers carrying foreign oil as culprits.

Anglo-Suisse is conducting “an independent analysis to confirm we are not the source,” Kimberly said.

-By Ryan Dezember, Dow Jones Newswires;

PHOTO: Oilspillnation.com

UPDATE:

NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard and the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office are working with Anglo-Suisse Thursday, to oversee the cleanup of oil that has made landfall in the Grand Isle, La. area.

Tests were done by LSU and Coast Guard marine safety labs and confirmed that the samples collected from West Delta 117 and samples collected from both Elmers Island and Grand Isle are a match. Anglo-Suisse has been identified as the responsible party for this cleanup.

“While a responsible party has been identified, the Coast Guard and state of Louisiana, in consultation with parish, local, and tribal leaders, has direct oversight of the response and we are working to ensure the effective and thorough cleanup of all of the affected areas,” said Coast Guard Capt. Jonathan Burton, federal on scene coordinator for the response.

No new oil has come ashore since Monday and an estimated total of one-quarter to one-half mile of shoreline has been affected by patches of oil.

Assets currently being used in the clean up and recovery operations include:

– Approximately 8,400 feet of containment boom, deployed to prevent damage to environmentally sensitive areas;
– Two MARCO Skimmers are currently underway;
– Five barge boats;
– Four drum skimmers.

Other assisting and cooperating agencies currently engaged in the clean up and recovery operations include:

– Department of Public Safety;
– Grand Isle Fire Department;
– Louisiana National Guard;
– U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries.

As the responsible party for this cleanup, Anglo-Suisse is responsible for paying for all cleanup related costs associated with the spill.

Both the Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement are investigating the cause of the spill.