The ongoing spillage appears to have come from an underwater source at an offshore drilling lease located about two miles (three km) south of Port Fourchon in Louisiana. The reported location is near the site of a miles-long brown and black oil slick visible in aerial photos first published Wednesday by The Associated Press.
The growing oil spillage appears to have remained at sea so far and has not affected the Louisiana coast. Although there is no estimate of how much oil is in the water, recent satellite images that AP reviewed on Saturday showed the slick drifting eastward for more than a dozen (more than 19 km) along the Gulf coast.
Lt. John Edwards, Coast Guard spokesperson, said that response teams are reviewing satellite imagery and reports to determine the extent of the discharge. He stated that the source of the pollution was in Bay Marchand Block 4 and is believed be oil from an underground pipeline owned by Talos Energy.
Brian L. Grove, spokesperson for the Houston-based energy firm, stated that Clean Gulf Associates was hired to handle the spillage, even though it believes it isn't responsible.
Clean Gulf Associates, an oil-spill reaction cooperative that assists the energy exploration and production industries, responded to the emergency on Wednesday. To prevent further oil contamination, the workers placed a boom around the area. The vessels of the company are equipped with skimmers capable of removing oil from water. However, the Coast Guard stated that only 42 gallons (roughly 160 liters) have been removed.
Talos is currently investigating the source of the leak. Grove provided a statement saying that field observations indicated that the company's assets were not the source. According to Talos, the company previously leased Bay Marchand Block 5 but stopped production in 2017. The company also stated that it plugged all its wells and removed all of its pipeline infrastructure by 2019.
According to the statement, "Talos will continue working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as other federal agencies in order to determine the source of the release" and coordinate a successful response. "The safety of all employees and the protection and enjoyment of the environment are our top priorities."
Following the Category 4 hurricane, which made landfall in Port Fourchon on Sunday, the Bay Marchand spillage is one of many environmental hazards that state and federal regulators are responding. This region is an important production hub for the U.S. Petrochemical Industry.
Wednesday's report by the Associated Press also included images from a National Atmospheric and Oceanic survey that showed widespread flooding and what appeared like petroleum in the water at Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery, which is located south of New Orleans.
After AP published the photos, the Environmental Protection Agency tasked a specially outfitted survey aircraft to fly over that refinery on Thursday, as well as other industrial sites in area hardest hit by the hurricane's 150-mph (240-kph) winds and storm surge.
According to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, a state team that visited the Alliance Refinery saw a heavy oil spillage and recommended booms or absorbent pads. The levee that was supposed to protect the plant had broken, allowing floodwaters from flooding the plant during the storm and back out after the surge receded.
According to state environmental officials, there is no estimate of how much oil may have leaked from the refinery.