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Divers Identify Broken Pipeline as Source of US Gulf Oil Spill

Photos captured by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft, Aug. 31, 2021 and reviewed by The Associated Press show a miles long black slick floating in the Gulf of Mexico near a large rig marked with the name Enterprise Offshore Drilling

Divers at the site of an ongoing oil spill that appeared in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida have identified the apparent source as one-foot diameter pipeline displaced from a trench on the ocean floor and broken open.

Talos Energy, the Houston-based company paying for the cleanup, said in a statement issued Sunday evening that the busted pipeline does not belong to them.

The company said it is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to coordinate the response and identify the owner of the ruptured pipeline.

Two additional 4-inch pipelines were also identified in the area that are open and apparently abandoned. The company's statement did not make clear if oil was leaking from the two smaller pipelines.

The Associated Press first reported Wednesday that aerial photos showed a miles-long brown and black oil slick spreading about 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

Talos said the rate of oil appearing on the surface had slowed dramatically in the last 48 hours and no new heavy black crude had been seen in the last day.

So far, the spill appears to have remained out to sea and has not impacted the Louisiana shoreline. There is not yet any estimate for how much oil was in the water, but recent satellite images reviewed by AP on Saturday appeared to show the slick drifting more than 19 kilometers (more than a dozen miles) eastward along the Gulf Coast.

Coast Guard response teams are monitoring reports and satellite imagery to determine the scope of the discharge, which is in Bay Marchand, Block 4. Talos previously leased Bay Marchand, Block 5, but ceased production there in 2017, plugged its wells and removed all pipeline infrastructure by 2019, according to the company.

With the source of the oil unclear, Talos hired Clean Gulf Associates to respond to the spill. Clean Gulf, a nonprofit oil-spill response cooperative that works with the energy exploration and production industry, has two 95-foot vessels at the scene of the spill attempting to contain and recover crude from the water.

The Bay Marchand spill is one of dozens of reported environmental hazards state and federal regulators are tracking in Louisiana and the Gulf following the Category 4 hurricane that made landfall at Port Fourchon a week ago. The region is a major production center of the U.S. petrochemical industry.