By Hiroko Tabuchi and Blacki Migliozzi
© The New York Times Co.
Cleanup crews are working to contain what experts called a substantial oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to an examination of satellite and aerial survey images, ship-tracking data, and interviews with local officials and others involved in the spill response.
The spill, one of multiple plumes spotted off the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricane Ida, was identified in satellite imagery captured Thursday by space-technology companies Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies.
A black expanse and rainbow sheen of oil spanning at least 10 miles was spreading in coastal waters about two miles off Port Fourchon, an oil and gas hub. An aerial survey image of the spill was captured Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The powerful hurricane, which swept through one of the nation’s largest chemical, petroleum and natural gas hubs when it made landfall last Sunday, has heightened concerns over the vulnerability of the region’s fossil fuel infrastructure to intensifying storms.
It was unclear how much oil had spilled into the Gulf. The spill, possibly from an old pipeline no longer in use that was damaged by the storm, was first spotted Monday from reconnaissance flights led by a number of Gulf Coast producers, and was reported to the Coast Guard, according to a person with direct knowledge of the cleanup.
By Saturday morning, two more boats appeared to join the cleanup.
Lt. John Edwards of the Coast Guard said the spill was believed to be crude oil from an old pipeline owned by the Houston-based oil and gas exploration company Talos Energy. A cleanup vessel hired by Talos was using skimmers to recover the oil and had placed a containment boom in the area to try to contain the spread, he said. Talos Energy declined to comment.
Several experts who studied the flyover and satellite images said the spill appeared to be ongoing and significant.