By Kathy Finn
Feb 27 A small boat collided with an inactive
oil and gas well about 50 miles south of New Orleans on Tuesday
night, causing a small oil spill, the U.S. Coast Guard and the
operator of the well said on Wednesday.
The accident occurred at about 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday,
when a 42-foot (13-metre) offshore oil service boat, the Sea
Raider, struck a wellhead owned by Swift Energy in
inland water off Plaquemines Parish.
Swift said the well had not been used since 2008. It said
the last test of the well, taken shortly before it was shut
down, showed it was producing about 18 barrels of oil and 59,000
cubic feet of natural gas a day.
Swift said the collision had damaged the wellhead but that
it "appears to be primarily releasing water and a small amount
The company said containment booms and skimming equipment
had been deployed around the well to protect nearby shorelines.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Ensign Tanner Stiehl, said a small
sheen had developed around the accident site. "We don't know the
specific oil content," said Stiehl.
The Coast Guard was working with federal, state and local
agencies plus Swift Energy on the response.
P.J. Hahn, director of Coastal Zone Management for
Plaquemines Parish, said he had seen video shot by the Coast
Guard during an overflight and that the wellhead appeared to be
leaking "pure sea water" rather than oil.
The incident occurred about nine miles (15 km) southwest of
Port Sulphur, a small town along the lower Mississippi River
some 50 miles (80 km) south of New Orleans.
There has been a heightened awareness of spills of any
magnitude since the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11
rig workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf
of Mexico in 2010.
Oil company BP is currently on trial in a civil case
in New Orleans over the spill.
Potential liabilities stretch into the tens of billions of
dollars if the judge determines BP or the other defendants were
grossly negligent. Oil came ashore from Texas to Florida,
threatening livelihoods and state economies dependent on seafood
Swift Energy is an independent oil and gas driller
based in Houston. The company pumps oil and gas in Texas and
Louisiana and reported total production of around 35,000 barrels
per day of oil and gas equivalent during the last quarter of