Ruptured Louisiana Oil Well Still Gushing

Yesterday, we wrote about an abandoned oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that was not lit as required when it was struck by a tugboat pushing a barge early the prior morning. The <"">collision ruptured the wellhead and sent oil, contaminated water, and natural gas spewing into the air. NOLA reports that the broken wellhead, located in lower Jefferson Parish, continues to spew.

The accident occurred in Mud Lake, a coastal inlet just north of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay in an area that was already under threat from the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The collision took place on Tuesday, around 1:00 a.m. when the towboat Pere Ana C hit the wellhead. No one was injured.

According to the US Coast Guard, the vessel’s captain said the well was not lit; the Coast Guard also identified the owner of the well as Houston-based Cedyco Corp. Officials have been unable to make contact with the company and USA Today is reporting that the company is out of business.

Now, it seems, the spill spread to a six-square mile radius on Bayou St. Denis, which is near the Barataria Waterway near Lafittem said NOLA. The wellhead is not expected to be plugged before the end of the week, noted the Coast Guard, reported NOLA.

“Our priorities remain securing the source and containing and recovering the oil,” said Captain John Arenstam in a news release, quoted NOLA. Captain Arenstam is the on-scene coordinator for the Coast Guard. “We are concerned about the safety of personnel and transiting vessels and the environment. Therefore, marine traffic has been restricted by a two-mile safety zone established around the wellhead. This was put in place to prevent a possible ignition of the gas,” Captain Arenstam added.

According to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the wellhead has been classified as “orphaned”; a CEDYCO official said the wellhead was turned over to the state in November 2008, wrote NOLA. Of note, said Casandra Parker, an engineer with the Louisiana Office of Conservation, the state does not assume ownership of orphaned wells and only runs a program that ensures wellheads are appropriately sealed and that sites surrounding broken down rigs be restored to their condition prior to when they were used as well sites, wrote NOLA, citing the DNR website.

Environmental Safety and Health is handling the cleanup, said NOLA. About 6,000 feet of containment boom was in place around the site yesterday, with the accident blocking traffic into Barataria Bay. The Coast Guard said it had hired Wild Well Control Inc. to cap the gushing well. As of today, about 10,500 feet of containment boom and 3,000 feet of absorbent boom have been deployed, said the Coast Guard. Also, more than 150 response personnel and 31 boats have responded, added NOLA.

There are no estimates yet on how much oil has spilled into the Gulf because of the ruptured well.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the incident was yet another blow to the parish as it tries to recover from the massive BP oil spill. “We just got the Barataria Bay cleaned a week ago,” Lagasse said. “This is something that could happen at anytime. There are thousands of these wells out there.”

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