Federal study: 2004 Gulf spill releasing far more than owner claims

Federal study: 2004 Gulf spill releasing far more than owner claims

A Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began in 2004 is releasing far more oil than the well owner claims, according to a federal study released Monday. 

The report, by two scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a Florida State University professor, found that up to 108 barrels per day — more than 4,500 gallons — flow from the site of the nearly 15-year-long spill, which was triggered by Hurricane Ivan.

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Taylor Energy claims that only one drop of oil per minute is being released from a small area covered in mud, amounting to less than three gallons each day.

“The results of this study contradict these conclusions by the Taylor Energy Company,” the authors said.

The government’s findings also differ from those of three studies last year that said the flow of oil from the site was substantially higher.

The study concludes that the oil and gas releases at the site are coming from multiple wells, again contradicting Taylor Energy's claim that the releases comes from oil-soaked sediment.

NOAA said the next step is to conduct a natural resource damage assessment that “assesses injuries to natural resources and then determines the best methods to rehabilitate, replace” the benefits those resources provided.

NOAA and its federal partners are in the early stages of the process to assess damages “to determine if public natural resources have been harmed by the oil and gas release."

Taylor Energy sold its oil and gas assets in 2008 and ceased all drilling and production operations.

"The Government released this report to the media but did not share it with Taylor Energy. In addition to this one instance, the Government has refused to share with Taylor Energy any verifiable scientific information or data despite the company's multiple requests," the Taylor Energy Trust Fund, which exists to deal with litigation related to the spill, told The Hill in a statement.

"As the Responsible Party, it is unprecedented to be forced to file Freedom of Information Act requests for such information. Even worse, those requests have been largely ignored."

The Taylor oil spill began nearly six years before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf, which left 11 people dead and led to the largest ever oil spill in U.S. waters.

 
Updated Tuesday at 9:08 a.m.