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Three Percent of Gulf Oil Production Shut in by Pipeline Breach

Slick cleanup
Courtesy USCG

Published Nov 23, 2023 11:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

The pipeline spill that released up to 1.1 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico last week has forced the shut-in of about 61,000 barrels a day of production, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. This amounts to about three percent of total U.S. offshore crude production.

Six producers use the Main Pass Oil Gathering Co. (MPOG) line, a 67-mile pipeline extending east from the Mississippi Delta. The Coast Guard identified the affected producers as W&T Energy VI, Occidental Petroleum, Walter Oil and Gas, Cantium, Arena Offshore and Talos Energy Ventures.

On Thursday morning at 0630, pipeline operator Third Coast shut down MPOG, and an oil sheen was spotted at 0900. Third Coast notified NOAA's National Response Center at 0910. 

The spill has ceased, and skimmers were deployed to target concentrated areas of slick for cleanup. About 210 gallons of oily-water mixture were recovered. 

Courtesy USCG

Over the course of the past week, the spill has stretched out to a length of 30 miles, drifted further offshore and dissipated to a light sheen (above). No signs of further new oil releases have been observed. A few oiled birds have been spotted, but there have been no shoreline impacts, response coordinators told local media on Thursday. 

The visibility of the sheen may not be the most important measure of the spill's impact, according to Doug Helton, NOAA emergency response coordinator. Helton told local WWL-TV that the oil's effects on the gulf's endangered species - like the Rice's whale and the Kemp's Ridley, a critically endangered turtle - could be substantial, even if the surface and shoreline looked about the same. Oil has negative effects on marine wildlife, and marine scientists believe that the Deepwater Horizon spill may have removed about a quarter of the remaining Rice's whale population.  

The breach in the pipeline has not been found. So far, ROVs have surveyed about 23 miles of the line, and the hunt continues. The location is believed to be about 20 miles off Pass a Loutre.