An abandoned oil well was found leaking in the marsh west of Port Sulphur last week, just two days after a bankrupt oil company turned it over to the state’s Orphaned Well program.
The U.S. Coast Guard discovered the leak in the Magnolia Field Thursday, June 22, after bands from Tropical Storm Cindy blew through Plaquemines Parish. Cleanup crews were able to recover four barrels – about 168 gallons – of oil in the shallow water, according to Patrick Courreges of the state Department of Natural Resources.
The amount of oil recovered is typically less than the amount spilled into the water because only thicker oil that reaches the surface can be recovered.
Courreges said the well does not appear to be leaking anymore, but the state is hiring a contractor on an emergency basis to plug the well properly. The well and surface structure appear to be in good shape and are about 22 years old, Courreges said.
The state on June 20 took over the well along with about 120 others from Shoreline Southeast LLC, an operator that went bankrupt earlier this year and had to liquidate its assets. Courreges said the state has a claim for $2 million with the bankruptcy court to plug the orphaned wells.
The leaking well is in an area of mostly open water dotted with hundreds of oil wells between Lake Hermitage to the north and the historic Indian settlement at Grand Bayou Village to the south.
The area used to be a patchwork of oil access canals, but subsidence has caused all but the thin edges of the canals to sink into the water. The leaking well is in one of those ghost-like access canals.
Fewer than 2 miles to the north, the state has spent millions of dollars to rebuild marsh along the south edge of Lake Hermitage.
Courreges said the state is responsible for about 3,500 orphaned wells under a program that plugs and abandons them when operators fail to follow the law for maintaining oil and gas wells or don’t have the financial wherewithal to do so.