Oil Pipeline spills 58,800 gallons (!) in Gulf of Mexico

Accidents do happen. As hard as the oil tries to contain its product, there is no foolproof way to move the stuff around. Most oil is moved ashore from offshore platforms in pipelines. Today, a major twenty-inch diameter pipeline spilled 1,400 barrels into the marine environment.

The salient points:

  • The news media likes to report spills with larger numbers, so they usually use gallons (42 to a barrel).
  • The picture accompanying the story is obviously not of a spill 75 miles from land, it is a spill from a barge on the Mississippi River last summer.
  • Pipeline spills are of relatively limited volume. This one is big, but it is from a big pipeline.
  • The alternative to domestic oil production and pipelines is to import oil in tankers. A tanker spill would be on the order of one hundred times this volume.
  • Twice the volume of this spill seeps into the Gulf of Mexico environment every week due to natural seeps.
  • Since this spill happened 75 miles offshore, its environmental threat is nil. Emergency equipment has already been dispatched to the site, with skimmers to capture the oil. In fact, most of the oil will evaporate or be naturally dispersed by wave action. Spills close to shore are the ones that threaten environmental damagem to birds, wildlife and marsh grasses.
  • Times-Picayune:

    Gulf of Mexico oil spill estimated at 58,800 gallons

    Susan Poag, The Times-Picayune archive

    An underwater pipeline released about 58,800 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, according to the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City.

    The Coast Guard is coordinating clean-up efforts for the spill, which is about 75 miles south of Atchafalaya Bay. …

    The source of the spill has been secured, and it is highly unlikely to affect land.

    The spill is being cleaned up through the use of surface skimming vessels and chemical dispersants.


    Eugene Island pipeline shut after spill: Shell

    On a related note: the Minerals Management Service recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Unannounced Spill Drill Program. All offshore operators must be able to demonstrate the competence and reliability of their spill response programs. Coincidentally, Shell had recently completed the 250th unannounced drill at ne of its large deepwater platforms.