Collapsed Platform Drops Oil Storage Tank Into Terrebonne Bay

Image courtesy USCG

Published Aug 9, 2022 7:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

A spill response is under way after the release of a substantial quantity of oil from a collapsed storage tank on a platform in Terrebonne Bay, Louisiana. 

A platform structure at Hilcorp's Caillou Island facility failed on Monday, causing a storage tank to fall into the water. Hilcorp estimates that up to 14,000 gallons of crude oil were released. 

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the scene to oversee containment work. So far, about 4,500 feet of containment boom have been deployed, along with three skimming vessels and five response vessels. The cause of the incident is under investigation. 

Hilcorp is a private oil company specializing in the operation of older, mature oil fields and previously developed energy infrastructure. The field at Caillou Island first entered production in 1960 under the operation of Union Oil Company, according to archival accounts. Ownership later transferred to Texaco, then Chevron, then Hilcorp, according to well status records. The majority of the wells at the field are recorded as plugged and abandoned.  

Hilcorp's critics allege that the company has an uneven record when compared with the publicly-listed oil majors, whose older assets Hilcorp acquires and operates. In Alaska, where Hilcorp operates the Prudhoe Bay field, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has accused the company of a "substantial history of non-compliance."

According to a recent report by Ceres based on federal data, Hilcorp is also the largest emitter of methane in the U.S. oil and gas industry, as well as the largest overall emitter of greenhouse gas (measured by warming potential). Its total GHG emissions outrank next-largest emitter ExxonMobil by 50 percent, though Hilcorp only produces about half as much energy as Exxon (measured by MBOE), according to the report.

“We spend substantial capital optimizing, retrofitting and refurbishing equipment in order to drive down emissions and intensity from these acquired assets,” spokesman Nick Piatek told the Wall Street Journal in response to the report.