18-year oil spill in Gulf: 1M gallons collected since 2019

July 12, 2022 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One million gallons of oil have been collected since April 2019 from the site of the nation’s longest oil spill, in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana, the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday.

The spill began when when Hurricane Ivan caused an underwater mudslide in September 2004, collapsing an oil production platform 11 miles (27 kilometers) from shore. Owner Taylor Energy Co. LLC capped nine wells but said it couldn’t cap the other 16 at Mississippi Canyon Block 20, or MC-20 for short. They have now been leaking for nearly 18 years.

“As of July 12, 2022, 1,016,929 gallons of oil have been collected from the MC-20 site” over more than three years, the Coast Guard said in a news release. That amount — more than 3.8 million liters — would fill about 1.5 Olympic swimming pools.

The Coast Guard said that the containment system it ordered is collecting an average of about 900 gallons (3,400 liters) of oil a day.

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Neither agency estimated the 18-year total.

Some earlier estimates put the daily maximum at 33 times the current daily amount, but that figure is also far above early government estimates of 7.5 gallons (28 liters) a day in 2012 and 12 gallons (45 liters) a day in 2015.

Estimates were even lower from Taylor, which unsuccessfully took the Coast Guard and its contractor to court over the containment system.

The New Orleans-based company agreed in December 2021 to drop three lawsuits, turn over a $432 million cleanup trust fund and pay an additional $43 million to settle a federal lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Greg Gerard Guidry signed the settlement in March, according to online court records.

The trust fund money went to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to pay for continuing efforts to plug the well and stop the spill, NOAA said in its press release.

“Experts continue to work on a permanent solution,” the agency said.

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