Material on island not oil, but new sheen found

by Associated Press

Published: August 18,2011

Tags: disaster, disaster recovery, energy, environment, offshore drilling, Oil, oil and gas, oil sheen, oil spill, tourism

GULF OF MEXICO — The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has released testing results done on suspected oil spill material found on Deer Island recently.

However, a new oil sheen discovered in the Gulf of Mexico from a mystery source has raised new concerns.

The results determined that the material was not oil and not a product of the oil spill.

Coastal geology specialists and other scientists identified the material as humate cemented sand.  Humate cemented sand is a type of organic sediment in bodies of brackish or saline water that accumulates in and beneath marsh deposits in beach sands or bayous and bays.

The first round of screening analysis found that the material was not oil or from the oil spill, and a second, more detailed round of testing confirmed that no oil contaminants were present.

BP said today the discovery of the new oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico had nothing to do with its operations and was far from the site of its disaster-hit Macondo well.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the company had sent several mini-submersibles into the water over the weekend to investigate the source of the sheen — a shiny coating that floats on the surface of the water which could come from leaked or spilled oil — but had concluded “that it couldn’t have been from anything of ours.”

A statement from BP placed the site of the sheen near two abandoned exploration well sites in the Green Canyon Block in the Gulf of Mexico. According to an online map published by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Green Canyon Block — a huge square-shaped area of water south of Louisiana — is south and west of the Mississippi Canyon Block where the Macondo well blew up.

A U.S. government official also said the area around Macondo was clear.

“They are not investing any sheens in the vicinity of the BP well,” Paul Barnard, Operations Controller for the New Orleans sector of the Coast Guard, told the AP today.

Beaudo, asked to estimate the distance between the sheen and the Macondo well, said he believed it was far away.

Some oil naturally seeps from the floor of the Gulf and the AP has reported that at least 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf are not routinely inspected when plugged or subsequently monitored for leaks.

London-based BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams noted that “there is a lot of sheen in the Gulf of Mexico area.”

“We’re investigating potential sources of the sheen,” she said.

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