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BP Investigates New Oil Sheen in Gulf of Mexico

by Raphael G. Satter

A new oil sheen has been found in the Gulf of Mexico, although oil giant BP said Thursday the discovery 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 on Thursday.

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

"We're talking 10s of miles (kilometers) if not further," he said.

A catastrophic April 2010 explosion at the Macondo well killed 11 men and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP's operations in the Gulf of Mexico have seen particular scrutiny following the disaster and it remains the area's largest leaseholder, but other energy companies have operations in the Gulf as well.

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.

The April 20, 2010 rig blast at Macondo killed 11 workers and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf from BP's well a mile beneath the surface before it was capped some three months later.

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