April 12, 2012 / 1:15 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 5-Shell says Gulf of Mexico sheen dissipating

* Shell says sheen is breaking up
    * Sheen near Shell's Mars and Ursa oil platforms
    * Shell says sees no leaks from its operations
    * Regulator says sheen near a natural seabed seep
    * Shell shares pare earlier losses, close up


    By Kristen Hays	
    HOUSTON, April 12 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell 
said an oil sheen near two of its offshore Gulf of Mexico oil
and natural gas platforms was dissipating Thursday, and it was
"very confident" its installations were not to blame.	
    The Hague-based company said the "orphan spill," estimated
to be about six barrels of oil, was breaking up. Shell said it
would continue to monitor the sea floor with a pair of
underwater robots.	
    "Shell's subsea surveillance today and tomorrow will
continue to determine if there is a connection between natural
seeps and this orphan sheen," the company said.	
    News of the sheen, first reported to U.S. regulators on
Wednesday, came nearly two years after BP Plc's deep sea
Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and
spewing more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of
Mexico. 	
    The earlier drop in the company's London-listed share price
showed that investors remain anxious over potential oil
accidents two years after the BP offshore spill, the worst ever
in the United States.	
    Shares of Shell traded on the New York Stock Exchange
 closed up 11 cents on Thursday at $67.86. The stock
closed down less than 1 percent in London after falling as much
as 5 percent earlier in the day, temporarily erasing roughly $12
billion in value from Europe's largest oil company by market
capitalization.    	
    The sheen, spotted about 50 miles away from the Macondo
well, was estimated to be six barrels of oil stretched one mile
by 10 miles before it began dissipating.	
    "The sheen appears to be dissipating," the Bureau of Safety
and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said in a statement, after
inspecting the area with helicopter overflights. "It does not
appear to be expanding."	
    Shell's robot surveillance, in addition to overflights at
the scene by the U.S. Coast Guard, showed no signs of wellhead
leaks, the company said.	
    A source familiar with the incident told Reuters that Shell
was nearly 100 percent sure that the sheen stemmed from a
natural seep rather than an oil well. 	
    The BSEE, which regulates offshore oil and gas activity,
said on Thursday that its personnel spotted the sheen on
Wednesday near Shell's Mars and Ursa platforms and notified the
company.     	
    The BSEE said the ROVs were assessing permanently plugged
wells in the surrounding area "and a known natural sea floor
seep located in proximity of the sheen." 	
    BSEE said it also directed pipeline companies with
operations in the area to survey their lines.	
    Shell said a Marine Spill Response Corp vessel with skimming
and boom capability was deployed to the site, but was released
by the Coast Guard Thursday afternoon to return to shore, a
source familiar with the incident told Reuters.	
    Shell spokeswoman Kelly Op de Weegh also told Reuters that
the company took samples of the sheen to undergo testing at a
laboratory to ascertain whether it came from a natural seep.	
    The Mars platform can produce up to 160,000 barrels of oil
and 121 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. Ursa can
produce up to 150,000 barrels of oil and 400 million cubic feet
of gas per day.	
    Both are about 130 miles (209 km) southeast of New Orleans,
and are about seven miles (11 km) apart.	
    The Marine Spill Response Corp is a nonprofit organization
created in 1990 by the oil and shipping industries to enable
members to fulfill requirements of the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of
1990.
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