Oil giant Shell has reportedly spilled almost 90,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.  Authorities say the spill has been contained and cleanup is underway.  The spill created a 13 mile wide by 2 mile long slick on the surface of the water from a group of underwater oil wells 97 miles south of Port Fourchon in Louisiana.

Shell said the oil is not expected to have any shoreline impacts and no fisheries have been closed.  Recovery efforts are ongoing and they have mobilized equipment to begin repairs on the lines.   The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has deployed its full investigative resources to identify the cause of the oil spill and any potential improvements needed to the underwater infrastructure.

A Shell surveying helicopter reported the leak after noticing a sheen along the water surface in the area of the four underwater wells near Shell’s Glider Field.  The group of four subsea wells whose production flows through a subsea manifold to the Brutus platform, which sits in water with a depth of 2,900 feet.  Shell reported that they isolated the leak and shut in production along the lines.

The Brutus platform started operations 15 years ago and was designed with top capacity of 100,000 barrles of oil and 150 million cubic feet of gas per day.  Regulations for offshore operators were tightened ever since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010.  In the incident, 11 men lost their lives and 3 million barrels of oil were dumped into the Gulf.  To date, Deepwater Horizon is the largest man-made oil spill in history.

Environmental advocates have long criticized Big Oil’s insistence that offshore drilling can be done safely and have urged for the practice to stop.  Many advocates believe the long term impact on reef and coral  from the Deepwater explosion will not be seen for years.

A spokesperson for Shell said the leak did not occur from drilling and likely came from a release of oil from the subsea infrastructure, though they are still determining an exact cause of the release as they are still inspecting the subsea equipment and flowlines.  While the coastguard has designated the spill as a minor one, the initial amount of crude leaked was reported by a Shell survey crew.

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