Mississippi Canyon 209 (MC209) Oil Spill
Oil Spill | Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana | October 2017
The MC209 oil spill occurred on October 11-12, 2017 from an LLOG Exploration Offshore, LLC pipeline in Mississippi Canyon block 209 in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill occurred at a depth of approximately 1500 meters and the volume of the spill is estimated at 16,000 barrels (672,000 gallons), making it a substantial release of oil into the marine environment. The release began on October 11, 2017 and was ultimately shut-in more than 32 hours later on October 12. The spill occurred approximately 70 miles offshore southeast of Venice, LA, when the field was reopened following a precautionary shut-in for Hurricane Nate.
Even with the large volume of the spill, only a small surface expression was observed. This is potentially due to the high pressure in the pipe and the small crack in the pipe resulting in predominantly very small droplets of oil entering into the water at the release point. Preliminary modeling suggested that given the depth and high pressure of the discharge, the majority of the oil was trapped in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
What Were the Impacts?
Because most of the oil remained deep in the ocean, the majority of impacts were likely to the organisms that live in the deep water column between 200 and 1000 meters (mesopelagic) and between 1000 and 1500 meters (bathypelagic). These deep-living fish and invertebrates go through a daily migration up and down in the water column energetically connecting surface waters with the deep waters of the ocean. Scientists are still discovering new species in these deep waters and recent investigations have found that the meso- and bathypelagic northern Gulf of Mexico where the spill occurred is incredibly diverse, making it a global hotspot for biodiversity. Increased contamination on the bottom near the spill site was documented and impacts to bottom communities may also have occurred. Observations of nearby deep coral communities did not indicate that the known communities had been impacted.
What's Happening Now?
In April 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a proposed settlement with LLOG Exploration Offshore, LLC, to resolve their liability for natural resource injuries resulting from the pipeline spill. The settlement was available for public comment period.
On June 6, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana entered the consent decree finalizing settlement between NOAA and LLOG Exploration Offshore, LLC, valued at $3.1 million, to resolve their liability for natural resource injuries resulting from a pipeline spill that discharged oil into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 70 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. NOAA is now working to identify and propose restoration for the injured natural resources and will publish a Draft Restoration Plan for public comment in the future.