Just a little more than six years after the BP oil spill occurred, another oil giant is responsible for spilling 88,200 gallons (or 2,100 barrels) in the Gulf of Mexico. On May 12, 2016, Royal Dutch Shell identified an underwater flow line near the company’s Brutus tension-leg platform as the source of the leak. Fortunately, Shell was able to isolate and secure the source of the discharge after first spotting an oil sheen 90 miles south of the Louisiana coast.
While investigations to determine the cause of the spill are ongoing, public records show that Shell was approved to use a method of offshore fracking. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved the use of a “frac pack” which sends chemicals into a well to help stimulate the flow of oil and gas trapped in subsea rock formations. Unlike onshore fracking, offshore frac packs employ a much smaller amount of chemicals and affect a relatively small area of rock and sand.
Although both Shell and the United States Coast Guard completed cleanup operations by May 16, environmental groups are rightly concerned about the recurrence of oil spills and the lasting impact on the environment. Doug Helton, Operations Supervisor for the NOAA Emergency Response Division, estimated the Shell spill was just one of 20 in a 30-day period and believes that most spills releasing fewer than 100,000 gallons go unnoticed by the public. The environmental impact of the oil spill is currently unknown and will be monitored in the coming months.
Sources: Forbes; Nola.com; WWLTV.com
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