Natural gas began leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico Monday, the Associated Press reports. According to the Coast Guard, a crew was working to temporarily plug a leak in a well on an oil and gas-producing platform about 75 miles off the coast of Louisiana when they lost control of it.
The Coast Guard reported that the well did not blow out and there was no explosion or fire on the platform. Workers were evacuated safely.
A mixture of water and natural gas is leaking from the well, which lies 144 feet below the surface, according to Coast Guard Lt. Lily Zepeda. “An aerial survey on Tuesday revealed a rainbow sheen four miles wide and three-quarters of a mile long on the Gulf surface,” Zepeda said.
A crew was working Monday night to plug the well. Houston, Texas-based Talos Energy told CNN that the gas is flowing from a well they were in the process of abandoning and attempting to plug permanently. The company said the well is older and located in a field that was developed in the 70s.
Talos said the age of the tubing may have contributed to the leak, but the Coast Guard is still investigating.
Despite the widespread opinion that natural gas is a safe and viable energy source, a gas leak in the Gulf of Mexico is far from harmless. The Gulf is still recovering from the massive BP oil spill, and will likely be recovering for years to come.
“Toxic gases will damage the bodies of fish that come into contact by damaging their gills and causing internal damage,” Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network told CNN. “Marine species in the Gulf are more vulnerable when water temperatures are high and when oxygen concentrations are low like they are now.”
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.