Study Says Taylor Oil Spill Is up to 1,000 Times Worse Than Rig Owner's Estimate

n this 31 March 2015 aerial photo, the wake of a supply vessel heading toward a working platform crosses over an oil sheen drifting from the site of the former Taylor Energy oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.

For 15 years, oil from one particular spill has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

A new federal study estimates that, each day, about 380 to 4,500 gallons of oil are flowing at the site where a company's oil platform was damaged after a hurricane. That's about a hundred to a thousand times worse than the company's initial estimate, which put the amount of oil flowing into the ocean at less than 3 gal a day.

The report, released this past week and written by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one at Florida State University, also contradicted assertions from the Taylor Energy Company about where the oil was coming from.

The leak started in 2004, when an oil platform belonging to the Taylor Energy Company was damaged by a mudslide after Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf of Mexico. A bundle of pipes and wells sank to the ocean floor and became partially buried under mud and sediment.

To respond to the leak, Taylor Energy tried to cap nine of the wells and place containment domes over three of the plumes in 2008.

But after local activists observed more oil slicks near the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, the Taylor oil spill started getting national attention. And last May, the US Coast Guard installed a containment system that has been collecting 30 bbl, or about 1,260 gal, a day to help catch the oil that's continuing to surge in the ocean.

Study Contradicts Rig Owner's Conclusions

Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and ceased production and drilling in 2008 and says on its website that it exists solely to respond to the spill. It maintains that any oil and gas now leaking at the site is coming from oil-soaked sediment and bacterial breakdown of the oil.

The federal government's study suggests otherwise.

"This shows it is, in fact, coming from the reservoirs, from these oil pipes, and not from the remnant oil at the bottom of the ocean," Andrew Mason, one of the study's authors, told CNN.

To reach that determination, scientists collected samples from under the ocean's surface using two methods. Previous studies had either used samples from oil slicks on the ocean surface or measurements from flying over the site.

Using an acoustic device, scientists estimated that 9 to 47 bbl, or about 380 to 1,900 gal, of oil are leaking daily. Another device called a bubblometer put that estimate at 19 to 108 bbl, or about 800 to 4,500 gal, a day.

The report notes that the ranges are estimates and don't necessarily represent a final definitive government estimate of the oil being released at the site.

Read the full story here.

Read the report here (PDF).

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