The Oil Leak Enigma off the Coast of Louisiana
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, an oil leak off the coast of Louisiana is the region’s newest whodunit. The owner of the leaking pipeline has yet to be determined, and it raises fresh concerns over the lax regulatory guidelines for decommissioning a pipeline.
The damage that Hurricane Ida caused continues to grow. Reports came in on Saturday of an oil spill approximately two miles from Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Over the weekend, divers, with the assistance of Talos Energy, who had previously leased the area for a pipeline and were initially believed to be at fault, began investigating the scene. The source of the leak was discovered on Sunday.
30 August 2021, 05:34 GMT
On Monday, Talos secured a containment dome to recover and transfer the leaking oil. While the spill is currently contained, it was determined that the spill was not caused by Talos. It has yet to be determined who is at fault.
The Louisiana Gulf Coast is littered with active and defunct oil and gas pipelines. Oil has been extracted from the Gulf of Mexico since the 1920s, and as demand and production ramped up post-World War II, pipelines began their web-like sprawl through the gulf. Regulations in the region have been and remain relaxed in regards to how to deconstruct defunct pipelines. The oil spill reported on Saturday likely originates from a poorly decommissioned pipeline.
Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico accounts for 15% of the US’s crude oil production and underwater pipelines are their highways to the shore. Intense hurricanes, like Ida, are more likely to damage current and defunct pipelines. Officials in Louisiana may be looking for the one-time owner of the leaking pipe, but the blame is not squarely on them. Loose regulatory guidelines have left the Gulf of Mexico littered with aging and potentially oil-filled pipelines, and solving the mystery of this oil spill won’t solve that problem.