An abandoned offshore well has been spilling into the Gulf of Mexico for the past 18 years. Located about 12 miles off Louisiana coast near the mouth of the Mississippi River, the longest running oil spill is still running.
Taylor Energy offshore well oil spill
When Hurricane Ivan struck Gulf of Mexico in 2004 exposing at least 28 oil wells. The owner company Taylor Energy reported the incident but their attempt to stop the spill was unsuccessful. The public was unaware of the 1000 gallons a day leak from the well until 2010. People monitoring the river noticed a sheen marring the water. However attempts to stop the well was again unsuccessful.
An attempt got successful in 2019 when a complex underwater containment system start collecting the oil as I spilled from the well. Even though the wells are not fully plugged the oils are being captured. The Taylor Energy spill has estimated spilled 140 million gallons of oil until now. .
More abandoned wells
There are many forgotten wells deep in oceans posing an unknown marine life risk. While it is hard to tract abandon wells, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recorded that 32000 of the 55,000 offshore wells across the continents are abandoned or orphaned.
why and how?
But why and how are these well abandoned or orphaned? Offshore wells get abandoned when they do not produce enough to cover operation costs. While some wells dry up other wells never produce oil at all. The wells are first temporary abandoned and then it becomes a forever.
Similarly well are orphaned when they have no owner. This usually happens when the owner company go bankrupt or close their doors for any other reason. With no owner it becomes a challenge to shut or decommission the well.
Decommissioning an offshore well is difficult and expensive since the process means to dredge the seafloor and access the wells, which lay about 500 feet below the surface. Some well costs $350 million to decommission and the project stops midway due to lack of funds or due to operator bankruptcy. Leaving the wells to the states which then struggle to find finds or leave the wells forgotten.