Gulf of Mexico’s 14-Year Oil Leak Finally Contained

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.

A team of contractors has finally contained an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has been spewing from the site of a damaged platform for more than 14 years.

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Thursday that teams successfully deployed a subsea system that is able to contain and collect oil being discharged from the site of a toppled platform approximately 11 miles south of the mouth of Mississippi River. The containment system is now actively collecting oil, the Coast Guard said.

The platform, owned by Taylor Energy, LLC, was located in Mississippi Canyon Block 20. It toppled in September 2004 during Hurricane Ivan after storm surge triggered an underwater mudslide. The incident left the platform well conductor pipes buried in more than 100 feet of mud and sediment, impacting 25 of 28 connected wells.

The spill went unnoticed for years until 2008 when it was identified as the source of daily sheen reports.

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated that oil has continued to leak at a rate of approximately 1 to 55 barrels per day. Previous satellite imagery and overflights have shown oil slicks on the surface varying in size, sometimes ranging up to 30 miles in length.

The installation of the containment system marks a major milestone in the Coast Guard’s efforts to contain the so-called Taylor Energy MC20 oil spill that has impacted the waters off the Gulf Coast since the 2004 hurricane. The Coast Guard partially assumed federal control over the containment operation from now-defunct Taylor Energy back in December.

“After monitoring the system for several weeks we have determined that the system is meeting federal containment standards,” said Capt. Kristi Luttrell, the Coast Guard’s federal on-scene coordinator for the incident. “At this time the system is working and the once predominately large surface sheen has been reduced to barely visible. We will continue to monitor the containment system’s performance and make necessary adjustments to maximize containment of the spill.”