Just days after BP publicly denied allegations that its Macondo well was leaking, chemists from Louisiana State University confirmed that samples from the water’s surface above the well are a chemical match for the hundreds of millions of gallons of oil that spewed into the Gulf last summer.
On Tuesday, investigators from the Mobile Press-Register collected samples of oil floating on the surface and delivered them to Ed Overton and Scott Miles of LSU. Most of the oil was located in a patch about 50 yards wide and a quarter of a mile long, and reporters found a “pronounced and pungent petroleum smell,” the paper said.
The scientists confirmed that the chemical fingerprint of the samples was identical to the the BP oil, known as MC252.
“After examining the data, I think it’s a dead ringer for the MC252 oil, as good a match as I’ve seen,” Overton wrote in an email to the newspaper. “My guess is that it is probably coming from the broken riser pipe or sunken platform. … However, it should be confirmed, just to make sure there is no leak from the plugged well.”
In an emailed statement, BP spokesman Justin Saia said Wednesday that the company stands by its previous statement, and that “neither BP nor the Coast Guard has seen any scientific evidence that oil is leaking from the Macondo well” (CRI English). The company did deploy vessels to the site last week, but it’s possible that wind and waves prevented them from seeing the sheen on that day.
The Macondo well was permanently sealed in September 2010 spilling nearly 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
The most troubling possibility, according to petroleum engineers, is that oil is leaking up through the seafloor surrounding the sealed Macondo well, the Mobile Press-Register reported.
Image: 2010 photo of a sheen approximately three miles from the Deepwater Horizon well.
Credit: Flickr – CaliforniaDFG