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Bad weather halts cleanup of Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Bad weather halts cleanup of Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Strong winds and high seas have halted the cleanup and repair of a broken offshore oil pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico, probably until Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday.
The pipeline, located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Galveston, already has leaked an estimated 43,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf; roughly 500 gallons a day, or 21 gallons an hour, continue to escape the line.
The spill occurred after a portion of the High Island Pipeline System ruptured early Sunday. The pipeline's owner, Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline LP, shut down the line after detecting a pressure loss in the system, the Coast Guard said.
Plains Pipeline spokesman Jordan Janak said it appears the pipeline broke when it was struck by the anchor of a ship trying to moor in the area, where the water is about 90 feet (27 meters) deep.
"It looks like that's what caused the rupture, but we're going to have to go down when the weather clears to get more definitive information," Janak said.
Late Wednesday, divers were able to seal one end of the broken line by inflating rubber buoys in the pipe, according to the Coast Guard and Plains Pipeline. Divers were unable to locate the other end of the 14-inch (35-centimeter) pipe because of diminished visibility caused by rough water and heavy silt.
The weather caused the dive ship American Victory and the skimmer Ampol Recovery to cease operations Wednesday night.
"We're kind of bound by the weather at this point," Janak said.
Waves at the spill site were 5 feet (1.5 meters) to 6 feet (1.8 meters) Thursday and expected to reach 8 feet (2.4 meters) by day's end, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Winds were gusting up to 25 mph (40 kph). The weather is expected to worsen Friday and Saturday, NOAA said.
By Wednesday, the spill had spread to a light sheen 4.7 miles (7.5 kilometers) long and 80 yards (73 meters) at its widest spot, the Coast Guard said.
The spill's size is significant, but environmental damage could be minimal because the crude oil is a relatively light grade that disperses more easily, is far from land and should get pushed away from shore by the wind and tide, said Greg Pollock, deputy commissioner of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program in the Texas General Land Office.
Janak said it was too early to say when the pipeline would be repaired, or how much the spill will cost Plains Pipeline.


Updated : 2021-07-25 07:08 GMT+08:00