Houston Matters

Gulf Coast oil spill likely to have small impact in Texas, expert says

The leaks from Houston-based Third Coast Infrastructure have stopped. It’s estimated to be the largest oil spill in the US since BP’s Deepwater Horizon.

The energy industry was shaken by a trio of events this week that could help shape the future of oil and gas. Here, the sun sets behind two under-construction offshore oil platform rigs in Port Fourchon, La., in 2010.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
The sun sets behind two under-construction offshore oil platform rigs in Port Fourchon, La., in 2010.

Listen

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/470797/470820" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
X

A major oil spill from a ruptured subsea pipeline operated by Houston-based company Third Coast Infrastructure has forced approximately 62,000 barrels of daily oil production offline.

Multiple Houston area oil and gas companies have had to halt production completely. The spill is estimated to be around 26,000 barrels or, about the size of two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

If confirmed, this would be the largest oil spill in the US since BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010. Dr. Don Van Nieuwenhuise, who’s the director of Petroleum Geoscience programs with the University of Houston’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences joined Houston Matters on Tuesday to discuss the spill.

The leaks have stopped, Nieuwenhuise said.

"It's about 19 miles southeast of the Main Pass entrance," he said. "It's a good distance off the coast, it’s not that far off the coast."

Nieuwenhuise said the leak came from a gathering pipeline, which usually pulls oil from at least seven platforms. The water the pipeline is in goes deep quickly, but there is equipment that allows it to reach the site. He added that it's important to note that this spill isn't as large as the BP oil spill in 2010.

"This is less than 1% of what the BP oil spill was, even though it is a big oil spill. I won’t say it’s insignificant, but it’s small compared to the BP oil spill," he said. "And of course in this situation, they have a valve that they could turn off. Whereas in the other case, all that equipment was damaged and that made it very difficult to stop the flow out of one very large well that had a lot of flow coming out every day."

Officials have plotted where they think the spilled oil will be at a certain point in time, and it will likely be more around the Delta, Nieuwenhuise said.

"Also one thing that the Coast Guard noted is that the amount of oil they’ve seen on the surface doesn’t look like 1.1 million gallons. And that suggests that the pipeline company told them how much they think they’ve lost based on their gauges and whatnot. And then what actually has risen to the surface and become visible on the surface seems to be a smaller volume, so again it’s less than 1% of the BP oil spill and it may be even less."