Coast Guard response to wellhead allision continues

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Coast Guard continues to work with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO), Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LAWLF), and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) to secure the wellhead and minimize environmental damage resulting from an allision between a tow vessel and a wellhead in the Barataria Waterway which occurred at approximately 1 a.m., Tuesday.

The Unified Command Post, established at U.S. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, is reporting that the wellhead continues to emanate a mixture of oil, natural gas and water into Barataria Bay. The well is classified as orphaned by LDNR and is owned by CEDYCO.

Wild Well Control Inc. has been designated as the prime contractor to secure the leaking wellhead. Wild Well Control estimates it will take approximately 10 – 12 days to secure the source, taking into consideration the following necessary procedures:

  • Mobilization of safety and firefighting equipment and barges;
  • Outfitting barges with proper firefighting and safety equipment, cranes and other necessary materials;
  • Deployment of barges to the site of the damaged wellhead;
  • Pumping mud into the well;
  • Securing the discharge.

Securing the wellhead is challenging due to its remote location and the shallow water at the site. A hydrographic survey and pipeline survey of the region must be completed prior to any equipment being deployed to the site to ensure there is sufficient water depth for the response vessels. The pipeline survey is done to identify and protect the structural integrity of existing underwater pipelines when the barges put down temporary spuds to anchor to the bottom of Barataria Bay.

Wild Well Control plans to pump drilling mud in through the top of the wellhead to initially secure the source. The plan also calls for the installation of a new valve on top of the existing wellhead as a more permanent solution. As a backup procedure, Wild Well Control is developing a plan to build a cofferdam around the wellhead which will allow workers to cut off the existing pipeline and install a completely new wellhead.

“Our priorities remain securing the source and containing and recovering the oil,” Capt. John Arenstam, the USCG Federal On Scene Coordinator, reiterated. Approximately 24,000 feet of containment boom and 1,400 feet of sorbent boom have been deployed which will keep the oil contained within the Mud Lake region of Barataria Bay and its surrounding area. Air monitoring continues throughout the response area and over 150 response personnel and 35 boats are actively responding to the incident.

To protect the safety of personnel, transiting vessels and the environment, as well as to prevent possible ignition of the gas, marine traffic continues to be restricted by a two-mile safety zone established around the wellhead. However, vessels are allowed to transit through the area with USCG approval. USCG, LAWLF, and JPSO have enforcement vessels on scene and are working together to support USCG Sector New Orleans in coordinating transit requests.

The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has been enacted to provide monetary support for clean-up operations.

The cause of the allision remains under investigation

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