Perhaps unburdening Royal Dutch Schell, a US agency said today that an oil sheen spotted this week in the Gulf of Mexico was in fact likely the result of natural seepage from the sea floor, according to The Associated Press.
Spotted Wednesday, the ten-mile sheen was an unwelcome echo of the devastation wrought in 2010 when a BP wellhead blew out and caused the release of up to 4.9 million barrels of oil.
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The sheen was spotted between two oil platforms operated by Royal Dutch Shell.
But according to the AP, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said today that the pollutants were found near an area where natural seepage of oil and gas has been recorded in the past. The news agency said that Shell conducted an investigation which showed that the sheen was caused by such seepage.
According to the AP, the Coast Guard reported last night that the sheen had reduced to five miles in length and 100 yards in breadth and was breaking up in the Gulf at a distance of 130 miles southeast of New Orleans.
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Kelly op de Weegh, a company spokeswoman in Houston, TX, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying yesterday that that company undersea surveillance would continue examining the situation until today.
"It is well-studied and documented that the Gulf of Mexico has a long history of natural occurring seeps, which can on occasion produce sheens," she reportedly said in an e-mail. "Shell's subsea surveillance today and tomorrow will continue to determine if there is a connection between natural seeps and this orphan sheen."