A glance at 2 Gulf spills: 1 infamous, 1 virtually unnoticed

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2015 11:10 AM

Five years ago, BP's massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico exposed weaknesses in the drilling industry's safety culture and gaps in its spill response capabilities. But another spill had been befouling the Gulf for years — virtually unnoticed — before BP's deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster. And there's no end in sight for Taylor Energy Company's decade-old oil leak off the coast of Louisiana.

Here's a comparison between these two Gulf spills — one internationally infamous and another that even industry experts haven't heard about:

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LOCATIONS

— A drilling platform owned by Taylor Energy stood roughly 10 miles off Louisiana's coast in approximately 475 feet of water before it was toppled by an underwater mudslide during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. The mudslide also buried a cluster of Taylor Energy's 28 wells under a treacherous mound of sediment.

— BP was drilling in mile-deep water when its Macondo well — 49 miles from Louisiana's coast and 40 miles from Taylor Energy's site — blew out on April 20, 2010.

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RESPONSES

— Oil is still leaking at Taylor Energy's site nearly 11 years later. The company says nothing can be done to completely eliminate the persistent sheens coming from the seabed where its wells are buried.

— It took 87 days for BP to cap its well and halt the flow of oil.

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CAUSES

—Taylor Energy argues that its platform was destroyed by an "act of God," but the Waterkeeper Alliance environmental group says the company knew about the risks of drilling in a mudslide-prone area of the Gulf.

— Government investigators concluded that BP's spill was a man-made disaster, caused by a complex chain of mistakes and failures and risky behavior.

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SPILL ESTIMATES

— Confronted with the findings of an AP analysis of Taylor pollution reports, the Coast Guard provided an estimate that approximately 16,000 gallons of oil have been spotted in slicks over the past seven months. That is roughly six times higher than a 2013 government estimate, and 20 times higher than a figure touted by Taylor in a February court filing. SkyTruth, an environmental watchdog group, estimates that between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons of oil has spilled from the site since 2004.

— Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that slightly less than 134 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf from BP's well.

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COST

— Taylor Energy sold all its assets and oil and gas leases in 2008, four years after founder Patrick Taylor died. The company, down to one full-time employee, has spent tens of millions of dollars on its efforts to contain and end the leak.

— BP has spent billions of dollars on cleanup and compensation costs, but the London-based oil giant remains one of the Gulf region's most active operators.