Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana – Federal Officials Stumped?

We hope not, since we’ve provided plain-as-day photos of a leaking platform not far from where the slick off Venice, Louisiana was first reported.  Maybe the Venice slick had another as-yet unidentified source, but the slick encountered by our Gulf Monitoring Consortium partners from a well likely owned by Saratoga Resources, Inc. clearly indicates a problem at this precise location:  29°31’29.40″N /  89°19’60.00″W.

What’s not clear: what – if any – action will be taken by state and federal officials to address that spill?

Oily sheen spotted from Coast Guard aircraft near Venice, Louisiana on June 9, 2011. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann, courtesy gCaptain.

At any rate, the Coast Guard has declared the cleanup of the slick off Venice “complete,”  even though no oil was actually cleaned up – apparently it all dissipated before coming ashore.

We’ll let you know when as learn more about this unresolved incident.

Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana – Who Owns the Well?

Thanks to reader bdstroid for commenting on yesterday’s post that Lobo Operating, Inc. of Covington, LA is, well, no longer operating.  So the question is – who owns the well that is apparently leaking in the June 10 photographs taken by Gulf Restoration Network?  Some updated findings:

Using the Louisiana state data site, SONRIS, we’ve learned that the well in question has, in name at least, changed hands three times. According to SONRIS it was drilled in 2004 by Amerada Hess; bought in September 2009 by The Harvest Group, LLC of Covington, LA; then taken over in 2008 by Lobo Operating, Inc. of Covington (apparently the successor corporation to The Harvest Group). Dial Lobo’s phone number now and you get a voicemail greeting for Saratoga Resources, Inc.  Saratoga is the successor to (or purchaser of) Lobo and Harvest; all three entities filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.

Saratoga emerged from Chapter 11 a year later. We don’t know for sure if Saratoga owns the apparently leaking well, but it seems likely.  This LLC shell-game with offshore drilling sure can be confusing — we call it Responsible Party Whack-a-Mole.  And it sure does make us uneasy to learn about small, bankrupt companies responsible for operating and maintaining offshore oil and gas wells, when other livelihoods are put at risk from both chronic pollution and catastrophic spills.

We hope the Coast Guard is using the info we publish, but we haven’t had any direct contact with them. Gulf Restoration Network has provided info directly to the Coast Guard for this leak, which as far as we can tell has not been officially reported to the NRC by the responsible party as required by law.

We’re continuing to look for better imagery of the area, and the Gulf Monitoring Consortium will continue to coordinate our efforts to investigate and publish information about pollution incidents like this one.

Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana – Operator Identified?

According to SONRIS, the operator of the platform in Breton Sound that appears to be leaking in the photos taken on June 10 is Lobo Operating, Inc based in Covington, Louisiana. But the scientists from National Wildlife Federation who sampled an oil slick about 7 miles to the southeast on June 8 tell us their sample was thick, black crude oil.  Lobo’s well is reported to produce natural gas and gas condensate, which can be considered a very “light” oil; and the slick visible in the air photos looks relatively thin.

So although it appears there is a problem at the Lobo platform, it’s still not clear if that is the source of the slick that prompted the news reports and was sampled by NWF on June 8.

Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana – Leaking Well Identified!

We’ve identified the leaking well photographed yesterday, using the map-viewer at SONRIS.  It was drilled in 2004 and produces natural gas and liquid gas condensate, probably what’s causing the visible slick. The API number is 17726205660000.  We haven’t found a way to look up the well operator in SONRIS, but with that API number – a unique ID number given to every oil and gas well in the US – state officials and the Coast Guard should have everything they need to run this down.

Is this the well responsible for the oil slicks reported near Venice since June 8?  I think that’s likely, but can’t rule out the possibility of another leak or spill in the area.  There’s a lot going on in that part of the Gulf.  Routine satellite monitoring would sure be helpful.

But to my Gulf Monitoring Consortium partners, I’d like to say: job well done, folks!

Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana – Leaking Platform Location

 Actively leaking platform in Breton Sound Block 33 on June 10, 2011. Gulf Monitoring Consortium photograph courtesy SouthWings / Gulf Restoration Network. Full-resolution version here.

Last night Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network texted me the location coordinates where he shot the photos yesterday of an actively leaking platform in Breton Sound that may be the source of the oil slick reported over the past few days.  Here’s the location he provided:

29°31’29.40″N /  89°19’60.00″W

That’s in the northwest corner of Breton Sound Block 33, very close to the border with Main Pass Block 26, in Louisiana state waters.  We’re working to identify the structure and operator. It’s about 7 miles northwest of the oil sample taken by National Wildlife Federation on June 8 that tested positive as relatively fresh South Louisiana crude oil. It’s certainly possible that an oil slick could drift that far from the source, but it’s also possible there is another source for the Venice oil slick. Better satellite imagery (radar, please!) could help clarify this situation.  We’re looking for additional imagery of this area.

Here’s an updated map showing all of the relevant locations we’ve been discussing in this blog (as always, click for a bigger version):