U.S. Coast Guard

Shell Oil Spill Cleanup Operation Ends As Voices Against New Gulf Drilling Grow Louder

Five days after Royal Dutch Shell reported an estimated 88,000 gallon crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico from its operations in the Glider field, the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to halt skimming operations used in the cleanup because they were no longer finding recoverable oil. 

Both entities stated that no environmental damage has been reported, but independent monitors from Greenpeace, Vanishing Earth and Wings Of Care question whether the size and potential impact of the spill are being downplayed. 

News of Shell’s oil spill 90 miles south of Louisiana’s Timbalier Island came the day before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hosted a final week of public meetings on the Gulf Coast to give the public a chance to comment on its Five Year Plan 2017-2022 oil leasing program. Its plan calls for lease sales of 47 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. 

Winner of Mexico's First Offshore Oil and Gas Bid Had Massive Gas Drilling Leak in 2013

The company that won the first-ever bid in the oil and gas privatization era for Mexico — earning the right to tap into two designated blocks in the country's shallow water coast of the Gulf of Mexico — leaked 252 gallons of a liquid form of raw natural gas into the Gulf in a July 2013 shallow-water accident off the coast of Louisiana.

Talos Energy, the Houston, Texas-based company responsible for the spill, won the July 15 bid and will do the drilling in a joint venture alongside Sierra Oil & Gas and Premier Oil.

The leak — producing a self-described “rainbow sheen…more than four miles wide by three quarters of a mile long” — transpired on an inactive well formerly owned by the company Energy Resources Technology, which Talos bought as a wholly-owned subsidiary earlier that year. 

Coast Guard Proposal to Allow Barges to Haul Fracking Wastewater Draws Fire From Environmentalists

The U.S. Coast Guard released plans that would allow wastewater from shale gas to be shipped via barge in the nation’s rivers and waterways on October 30 — and those rules have kicked up a storm of controversy. The proposal is drawing fire from locals and environmentalists along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers who say the Coast Guard failed to examine the environmental impacts of a spill and is only giving the public 30 days to comment on the plan.

Three million people get their water from the Ohio River, and further downstream, millions more rely on drinking water from the Mississippi. If the Coast Guard's proposed policy is approved, barges carrying 10,000 barrels of fracking wastewater would float downstream from northern Appalachia to Ohio, Texas and Louisiana.

Environmentalists say a spill could be disastrous, because the wastewater would contaminate drinking water and the complicated brew of contaminants in fracking waste, which include corrosive salts and radioactive materials, would be nearly impossible to clean up.

The billions of gallons of wastewater from fracking represent one of the biggest bottlenecks for the shale gas industry.

States atop the Marcellus shale are brimming with the stuff. Traditionally, oil and gas wastewater is disposed by pumping it underground using wastewater disposal wells, but the underground geology of northeastern states like Pennsylvania makes this far more difficult than in states like Texas, and Ohio has suffered a spate of earthquakes that federal researchers concluded were linked to these wastewater wells. The volumes of water used by drillers for the current shale gas boom are unprecedented.

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