National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Nearly 90,000 gallons (2,100 barrels) of crude oil gushed from a Shell pipeline near the Brutus platform off the coast of Louisiana on Thursday, May 12, 2016. The Brutus platform produces up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day and 150 million cubic feat of natural gas. A Shell company helicopter spotted the oil slick that spanned an area of 2 miles by 13 miles according to the US Interior Department’s Bureau of safety and Environmental Enforcement. The oil leaked from an underwater pipeline that lead to Shell’s Brutus platform and caused an emergency shutdown of the Brutus platform as well as three other platforms that fed into the pipeline. No injuries were reported.
The US Coast Guard and federal offshore safety inspectors are investigating the incident. The cause of the leak is unknown at this time. Shell stated that the release was not due to drilling, as there was no drilling going on at the time of the leak, and it was not caused by a blowout. Shell reported that the leak had been contained and that it was working with The USCG, NOAA, and other agencies to contain and clean up the released oil. The company released the following statement:
“The likely cause of the sheen is a release of oil from subsea infrastructure and in response, we have isolated the leak and shut-in production. No release is acceptable, and safety remains our highest priority as we respond to this incident.“
While boats are on scene and the cleanup is underway, it is important to remember that this area is still recovering from the largest oil spill in US history that occurred six years ago. The stability of the ecosystem is already diminished by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Shell spill will likely be a setback for the recovery of the area. The Shell oils spill is inside the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill zone (see comparison below).
The continued introduction of crude oil into an environment can lead to ecosystem collapse. It is critical that we protect our oceans from contamination and the introduction of toxic materials.