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Gulf Gas Leak, Big Oozy Sheens Revisited
These are sheen times in the Gulf of Mexico. Recent appearances of oil and natural gas on the surface of the water have created both mystery and intrigue, but a pair of Tuesday developments might help to answer some questions. Crews continued work to permanently seal a well that leaked natural gas last week, while scientists pinned the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon as the culprit in a series of mystery sheens during 2012.
The Talos Energy well that crews lost control of last week has been temporarily sealed off by a bridge plug, and is no longer discharging any chemicals, according to the federal Bureau of Safety and Energy Enforcement. Crews will continue work to permanently kill the well this week, which was leaking natural gas condensate that produced a four mile by 3/4 mile sheen. The well is located about 70 miles southwest of Port Fourchon.
By the end of the leak, which lasted from Monday, July 7, through Thursday, July 11, company officials said "less than 10 barrels" of natural gas condensate had flowed into the Gulf. According to the Bureau, the sheen was no longer visible when the U.S. Coast Guard flew over the site over the weekend, according to the Bureau.
"The discharge from the well was mainly water, with small amounts of gas and light condensate. Although the discharge levels were low, we take any release of hydrocarbons into the environment very seriously and, in an abundance of caution, decided to take aggressive action," Talos Energy CEO Tim Duncan said in a statement.
No one was injured when the crews lost control of the well. The workers were attempting to permanently plug and abandon the well, which had not been active since 1998.
Meanwhile, over at the site where the Deepwater Horizon blew in 2010, a set of mystery sheens bubbled up from the Gulf in the fall of 2012. Initial fears held that the Macondo well, which was capped in the fall of 2010 to end the monthslong oil disaster, could still be leaking. However, a team of scientists traced the oil to BP-owned wreckage at the bottom of the Gulf, according to an article published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Using a patented method of "fingerprinting" the oil sheen, the researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) traced the oil to the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig itself, rather than the well. The oil was trapped inside the sunken rig, the researchers concluded.
The crews analyzed 14 sheens skimmed from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. While confirming the oil was from the Macondo well, the researchers also found industrial chemicals called olefins that are used in the drilling process, but not found in crude oil. The leaks likely came due to corrosion, as the metal in the rig sprung holes over time while sitting on the seafloor, the scientists said.
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