Shell Repairing Gulf Leak; Oil Skimming Ends

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 @ 05:05 PM gHale


Shell started work to repair a fault in a flowline that resulted in 2,000 barrels worth of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

Over 88,000 gallons of oily-water mixture released from the Glider Field, a group of four underwater oil wells located 97 miles south of Port Fourchon in Louisiana. The company said it suspects a line connecting these wells to a Shell platform leaked oil Thursday, creating a 13 mile-wide slick on the surface of the water.

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Shell said the oil is not expected to reach the shoreline and no fisheries have been closed.

“The trajectory is in a westerly direction with no shoreline impacts anticipated at this time,” Shell said.

Meanwhile, Shell and the U.S. Coast Guard finished their “skimming” operation Monday for the clean-up that began after the spill last week.

The oil recovery effort, which involved five vessels and 150 people, ended Monday afternoon, the Coast Guard said. Some 84,000 gallons of an oil-and-water mix ended up recovered.

Shell said one vessel would remain in the area to assess environmental impacts of the discharge, which began late Thursday morning with a broken pipe in the Glider Field, about 97 miles south of the Louisiana coast.

How much oil ended up recovered in the operation was not immediately revealed.

Production ended up shut in initially Friday, but resumed Sunday at the nearby Brutus Field. No additional discharges occurred following inspection of subsea infrastructures at the Glider Field, where production remained closed Monday. There was no loss of well control.

The Glider Field lies 165 miles south-southwest of New Orleans in around 3,400 feet of water.

Shell bought the lease there in 1995 for $725,000, and held a 75 percent working interest in Glider then; Newfield held the rest. Newfield said Tuesday it sold its interest to Shell in 2012. Development costs were about $150 million. The well ended up drilled in 1996 to about 16,000 feet.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said it approved Shell’s plan to recover the damaged flowline segment. A BSEE spokeswoman said the agency would review “any subsequent repair plans” before production restarts.

The spill itself was “on the low side” for volume of oil lost, a “relatively minor spill,” said Eric Smith, a professor at Tulane University and associate director of the Tulane Energy Institute in the A.B. Freeman School of Business in New Orleans.

The rupture occurred in what Smith said was likely an insulated 6-inch pipe along a pipeline fairly new in the Gulf of Mexico, which has some 31,000 miles of pipe, some more than six decades old.

Smith said skimming is something like using a vacuum cleaner on the water. He said some of the light, sweet crude oil found in the Gulf will evaporate in the sun; some oil will also end up consumed by bacteria.

Oily water collected by skimming will probably be separated into oil and water components, with the water returned to the Gulf. How much oil was recovered is determined through the oil and water collection and separating process.

BSEE said it has deployed its “full investigative resources” to identify the cause of the oil spill and any potential improvements needed to underwater infrastructure.