Photos show appearance of black slick near Gulf oil rig

Photos show appearance of black slick near Gulf oil rig
© NOAA

Photos released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in addition to aerial photos shot by The Associated Press appear to show petroleum leakage near a Gulf oil rig and Louisiana oil facilities.

Photos taken by NOAA showed that Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery, which is located 25 miles south of New Orleans, appeared to be flooding severely and leaking a sheen commonly associated with oil spills, the wire service reported.

In a storm update issued on Wednesday evening, Phillips 66 confirmed that the refinery experienced flooding as a result of Hurricane Ida.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The company can also confirm it discovered a sheen of unknown origin in some flooded areas of Alliance Refinery. At this time, the sheen appears to be secured and contained within refinery grounds. Clean-up crews are on site. The incident was reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies upon discovery," the company said in its storm update.

Phillips 66 added in its storm update that the refinery remained shut down and that an investigation into the sheen would be conducted.

A black slick in the Gulf also appeared to be present around a rig’s helipad, which displayed the name “Enterprise Offshore Drilling” on it.

In a statement to The Hill, Enterprise Offshore Drilling said that a mobile offshore drilling unit had been secured and evacuated before Hurricane Ida struck, noting "it did not suffer any damage or failure of our environmental safeguards."

"Enterprise personnel arrived back at the facility on September 1 and confirmed the integrity of all systems and that no environmental discharges occurred from our facility. Enterprise Offshore Drilling is committed to our ESG pledge and takes our promise of protecting the environment and running responsible operations very seriously," the company added in its statement.

Patrick Courreges, communications director for Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources, confirmed to The Hill in an email that the department was aware of reports of possible leakage and spills. 

ADVERTISEMENT

He noted that it would take some time before officials would be able to survey the areas possibly affected. 

"Given the fuel situation and the damage to roads and infrastructure, we don't have good ways to access some of the impacted areas yet. We are hoping to be able to get field agents in the area to begin making some on-the-ground assessment in the next two weeks, with particular emphasis on orphaned well sites - as well sites with live operators [will] very likely be making their own assessments and no one but our agency will be looking at the orphaned sites," Courreges told The Hill in an email. 

Contacted on Wednesday, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson told the AP that it had not been notified regarding any major spills following Hurricane Ida. However, EPA press secretary Nick Conger told the AP, after the wire service provided photos to the agency, that a U.S. Coast Guard-operated hotline had gotten multiple calls regarding possible leaks. 

He said that an EPA response was not necessitated by any of the reports.

The Hill has reached out to the EPA for comment.

Updated Sept. 2 at 2:49 p.m.