New Estimate Doubles the Size of Last Week’s Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

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Authorities have doubled the size estimate of last week’s offshore oil spill from a damaged pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 40 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.

On Wednesday, LLOG Exploration, which operates the pipeline, issued a revised estimated volume of unaccounted-for oil to the Coast Guard and BSEE. The new calculations indicate that the total volume of oil discharged may be as much as 16,000 barrels (672,000 gallons), nearly double the maximum 9,350 barrels (392,700 gallons) initially reported.

The pipeline was secured upon discovery of the leak.

The oil was discharged last week from a small crack in a subsea pipeline located approximately 5,000 feet under water, which was pressurized to more than 3,000 psi. “This high-pressure discharge through a small opening likely caused the oil to be broken down into small particles and disperse into deep-water currents prior to reaching the surface,” the Coast Guard said in a statement late Wednesday.

The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement continue their response the oil spill, coordinating with the responsible party and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to locate and respond to any oil that reaches the surface.

Multiple daily over flights and remotely operated underwater vehicle inspections have been conducted with no recoverable oil detected, according to the Coast Guard.

Skimming vessels from Clean Gulf Associates and the Marine Spill Response Corporation remain on standby.

Surface and subsea trajectory models indicate that any discharged oil will drift in a southwesterly direction and is not expected to impact the shoreline. The calculations indicate that the discovery of any recoverable oil is unlikely due to the depth and pressure at which the oil was released, the Coast Guard said.

Water samples taken along the trajectory path at various depths have not detected the presence of oil.

“While the reported discharge amount is very significant, we are confident in the calculations completed by the LLOG and NOAA scientists,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern from U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City, Louisiana. “Additionally, the lack of any recoverable oil identified by over flights and subsea inspections conducted throughout the past week supports this explanation.”

The Coast Guard and BSEE will continue to coordinate with the responsible party throughout the investigation into the cause of this incident.

The BSEE initiated a Panel Investigation into the incident. The five-member panel is made up of inspectors, engineers and accident investigators, who will issue a report containing findings, recommendations and any potential violations for consideration.

The oil spill is believed to be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 people and resulting in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.