Safe Harbor Updates

One of the Biggest (and Most Unknown) Spills in History: Taylor Energy Company

Posted: Jul 15, 2020 9:01:00 AM

The Safe Harbor team has been in the industry for a long time and seen all types of pollution affect our oceans and waterways. In previous articles, we told you about pollution involving LEGO® pieces and rubber ducks. Continuing our series of unusual pollution stories, we’re going to recap one of the biggest (and most unknown) spills in history: Taylor Energy Company.

It Started With a Mudslide

In 2004, Hurricane Ivan tore through the Gulf of Mexico and caused an underwater mudslide that significantly damaged a Taylor Energy Company (TEC) oil platform and its 25 attached wells. TEC was able to plug only nine of the wells and the leak continues to this day. 

The Longest Leak In History

Exactly how much oil continues to leak into the Gulf is unknown. In 2008, TEC sold its oil and gas assets and stopped all production and drilling. The company exists today solely to respond to the MC-20 incident.” TEC has continuously monitored the spill area with aerial surveys and twice-weekly overflights that track the surface sheen. The company states that any oil and gas currently leaking at the site is coming from oil-soaked sediment and bacterial breakdown of the oil. TEC reported “less than a barrel of oil a day on the surface,” but that estimate has been hotly disputed. 

In particular, a 2018 federal study found that the amount of oil leaking from the damaged rig was much higher and sources of the leaks were different than reported by TEC. The study estimated there was 380 to 4,500 gallons of oil flowing from the site per day. The study also stated that leaks were originating from the oil pipe reservoirs, versus just the sediment. 

The Response

After the report was published, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) installed a containment system. The system was put in place in May 2019 and collects about 1260 gallons of oil per day. Supporters think this is a positive step forward, but caution that some oil still escapes the containment system. The system was designed as a temporary fix and the remaining wells and sources of oil leaks need to be plugged permanently.

TEC disputes the finding of the federal study: “Consistent empirical data from some 2,500 aerial surveys disprove flawed studies that wildly exaggerate release estimates.” The company claims that further intervention would release more oil and negatively affect the environment.

While this is an extreme example, it shows how an unpredictable event such as a hurricane can cause a disaster that puts a company at risk for decades. Learn how Safe Harbor can protect you from even the worst-case scenarios.


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