June 23, 2024

The US Coast Guard said on Tuesday it is still seeking the source of a leak from a pipeline linked to a Houston-based firm, off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico which it estimated has released more than 1m gallons of crude oil.

The 67-mile long undersea pipeline was closed by Main Pass Oil Gathering Co (MPOG) last Thursday after crude oil was spotted around 19 miles offshore of the Mississippi River Delta, near Plaquemines Parish, south-east of New Orleans.

The Coast Guard is leading a multi-agency response, which includes the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Local reports said oiled pelicans had been spotted in the area while overflights and boat surveys were part of the response, which included underwater devices looking at the pipeline. Operations of seven energy companies have been impacted by the spill, officials said.

Third Coast Infrastructure, which reportedly completed the pipeline last year, has declined to comment about the spill and referred questions to the Coast Guard.

On Tuesday at a news briefing, Coast Guard officials said the Houston firm was suspected of the leak and described it as “the responding party” but said investigations continued, with several operators in the area.

MPOG is a subsidiary of Houston-based Third Coast Infrastructure, 50% of which is owned by private equity company IIF, and which is controlled by banking giant JPMorgan, according to the non-profit group Public Citizen, citing a ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September.

Initial engineering calculations placed the volume of the leak at 1.1m gallons, or 26,190 barrels. “We’re not saying that was the exact amount. We are not going to know the exact amount of oil that was discharged into the Gulf of Mexico until we find the source,” Captain Kelly Denning, Coast Guard deputy commander for the New Orleans sector, told the media.

Denning said it was yet to be established if Third Coast Infrastructure is responsible for the spill. “They’re [the] suspected responsible party but we won’t know until we find the source which is why we keep referring to them as the responding party,” said Denning.

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Officials said investigations and surveys were ongoing to determine the source of the discharge, but added that there were no reported injuries or shoreline impacts so far. There has been no impact on vessels and the waterway remains open to all commercial and recreational vessel traffic, officials said.

On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig contracted by the oil and gas company BP to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico blew up, spewing more than 200m gallons of oil, causing a major environmental disaster.

Reuters contributed reporting

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