On May the 12th Shell claims that its offshore Brutus platform spewed 88,200 gallons of crude (2,100 barrels) into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill in Shell’s Glider field created a 13 mile long by 2 mile wide oil slick in an area 97 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Shell offered the standard commentaries as dictated by their post-spill public relations protocols. The incident has been contained the said and “cleanup operations are underway.” Shell spokesperson Kimberly Windon added, “no release is acceptable, and safety remains our priority as we respond to this incident.”
Historically post spill press releases from the offending company tend to radically underplay the amount spilled and the dangers that these spills pose.
BP infamously underplayed the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon
spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A total of eleven men died on that day in
2010. This oil spill went on to become the largest in history leaking a
staggering 3 million barrels of oil to into the Gulf. The cost to marine
life has been devastating and it is being felt to this day. In 2015 BP reached a settlement with the US government in which it agreed to pay $20 billion in fines and penalties.
The recent Shell leak appears to have originated in a
subsea well-head flow line that connects four wells in the Green Canyon
area to the Brutus platform. In 2011 another of Shell’s flow lines sprung a leak, the time in the North Sea. Shell has also been the subject of derision for its test drilling in the Arctic. Their Arctic drilling exploits have not gone well. First one of their oil rigs ran aground and then they abandoned the Arctic as the price of oil fell below the point where this oil was financially viable. Then on Friday May 13th Shell was forced to give up all of its oil concessions in the Arctic except one.
The May 11th oil spill adds to the large and growing number of spills. This is but the latest of “thousands” of oil industry accidents in the Gulf of Mexico every year. In fact spills have become commonplace, as evidenced by this summary of fossil fuel spills in 2015.
Whether by pipe, rail or tanker, oil cannot be safely transported. Offshore oil has its own unique set of risks that set it apart and make it an even more dangerous proposition. However, offshore oil is an avoidable tragedy.
For these and other reasons President Obama is being pressed to deny any additional offshore oil drilling leases in the Gulf.