As if the oil spill in the gulf weren’t already sticky and complicated enough, news started emerging late Tuesday of a second oil well in the region leaking crude, producing an oil slick that was visible from the air.
The news was spotty and a little vague, but the Department of Interior did confirm Tuesday that “small amounts of oil – on average of less than one-third of a barrel per day – have been leaking” from wells operated by a company called Taylor Energy.
CNBC was reporting that this new leak originated from a production platform that was destroyed by an underwater mudslide in 2004, when Hurricane Ivan slammed the area. The site has been leaking ever since, as Taylor has sought to contain and close the well.
Taylor Energy, meanwhile, issued a statement Tuesday, saying that the photos of a second oil slick were taken while the company was actively working at the site, deploying a containment system: “Unidentified aircraft took photos this weekend that incorrectly reported an oil leak coming from the drilling rig Ocean Saratoga. At the time of these photos, Taylor Energy was actually conducting marine operations on site with a 180 foot dynamically positioned workboat for a regularly scheduled subsea containment system drainage,” the company said.
So it’s a small leak that Taylor is actively trying to contain.
But what’s a little less clear is how long this leak, which is still producing around 14 gallons a day – roughly a car tank’s worth – has been belching oil into the open ocean. Yes, Taylor is working to contain it, but how many days out of the last six years has oil been flowing freely? Assuming the leakage rate was always 14 daily gallons, that’s more than 30,600 gallons since 2004.