Uncapped Wells Have Been Leaking Oil Into the Gulf of Mexico for 14 Years

A ship moves through spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

A ship moves through spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Kris Krug/Wikimedia Commons

A collection of uncapped oil wells located 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana has been leaking as many as 700 barrels of oil every day since 2004 and could soon spill more oil into the Gulf of Mexico than BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, which leaked 4.9 million barrels in 2010, The Washington Post reports.

Taylor Energy, the drilling company responsible for the leaks, said there is no evidence that they are continuing to occur — a contention disputed by several federal agencies.

The leak started when an oil production platform owned by Taylor Energy was swept away by a seafloor mudslide caused by Hurricane Ivan, which hit the Gulf states in September 2004. The 40-story-tall platform and its 28 drilled wells were buried under a layer of thick mud. The U.S. Coast Guard soon realized oil was still escaping from the uncapped wells, and quietly monitored the leak for four years before ordering Taylor Energy to locate the wells and cap them. The company successfully capped one-third of the wells, but the oil kept leaking.

Earlier estimates by the U.S. Coast Guard that 84 gallons were leaking from the site each day were recently updated to 700 barrels per day by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For more on the spill, read The Washington Post story here.