The US Coast Guard is responding to a report of an allision between a vessel and an inactive wellhead about nine miles southwest of Port Sulphur, according to a press release issued about 10:30 a.m. CT today.
Coast Guard Sector New Orleans watchstanders received a report that the 42-foot crewboat Sea Raider allided with a wellhead owned by Swift Energy last night about 8. “The platform is discharging an oily-water mixture, but the amount is unknown at this time,” according to the Coast Guard New Orleans.
Swift Energy, which is based in Texas and operates independent wells there and in Louisiana, claims the wellhead was shuttered and became inactive in December 2007.
The Coast Guard is working with federal, state and local agencies as well as Swift Energy, trying to secure the well and contain and clean up any oil that is leaking.
The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident, of course.
All of this happens as the third day of testimony gets underway in Judge Carl Barbier’s court in New Orleans. With the threat of a trial that could lag on for months, the judge has urged practicality when determining how many witnesses to bring in.
On the first day of trial, environmental groups including the Audubon Society protested in front of the courthouse.
The trial has drawn international attention, as BP is being made culpable for its lapses stemming from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy of April, 2010. Eleven men died from the explosion and fire that followed, and purportedly were warning in days prior to the Macondo blowout that there were problems.
It is being widely reported that BP sacrificed safety in an effort to realize profits. A university professor who also investigated the levee breaches following Katrina, Civil Engineer Robert Bea of UC Berkeley, told the courtroom that BP had not followed its own two-year-old safety program on DWH.
That said, the trial has barely begun and no doubt, BP will continue to argue its case agressively. Billions of dollars are at stake as the company also struggles to repair its tarnished reputation.
As of 11:30 a.m. CT today, Swift had not issued a press release about its oily incident.
Update, 4:54 p.m. CT: The Coast Guard issued a press release stating that Swift has contracted a barge to secure the wellhead and that crews have deployed 1800 feet of boom. They say the discharge issuing from the well is fewer than 840 gals/oil per day. The Coast Guard has also brought out skimmers to clean up the oil. Efforts to plug the well are apparently a top priority.