Oil spill in Gulf twice as big as first reported

Oil spill image courtesy Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS – An oil spill in the Gulf, first reported by the Coast Guard on Saturday (Oct. 14), is now believed to be at least two times bigger than the original estimate.

According to the Coast Guard, the oil company, LLOG, initially said that a crack in a pipeline sent about 340,000 gallons of oil (between 7 and 9 thousand barrels) into the Gulf about 40 miles southeast of Venice.

In a Coast Guard update, LLOG is now reporting that the estimated amount of discharged oil “may be approximately 672,000 gallons” (16,000 barrels).

A spokesman for the Coast Guard could not give WGNO a reason for the discrepancy, but did say that the pipeline appears to be secured and is no longer believed to be leaking.

The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement are coordinating the response to the spill with LLOG, and with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “to locate and respond to any oil that reaches the surface.”

According to the Coast Guard, the pipeline is 5000 feet underwater, a depth so great that the oil is likely to be “broken down into small particles and disperse(d) into deep-water currents prior to reaching the surface.”

The Coast Guard says “multiple daily flights” over the area, along with underwater inspections, have not detected any recoverable oil.  However, the Coast Guard says that skimming vessels from Clean Gulf Associates and the Marine Spill Response Corporation “remain on standby.”

If the estimate of 16,000 barrels of oil spilled is correct, Bloomberg reports  that the spill would be the largest in the Gulf since the BP explosion in 2010– which gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf for weeks.  (Bloomberg’s article was written before this latest Coast Guard update on the LLOG spill.)

“While the reported discharge amount is very significant,” says Cmdr. Heather Mattern from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City,  “we are confident in the calculations completed by the LLOG and NOAA scientists.”

The cause of the incident is under investigation.