US Coast Guard Contacts Transocean over Gulf Oil Sheens

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 27, 2011

The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday it is working with Transocean to find out whether last year's wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig is the source of oil sheens that have appeared in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that a series of oil sheens--basically a thin carpet of petroleum floating on the surface of the water--spotted in the Gulf in recent months indicate the possibility of a release from the riser pipe or other debris from Transocean's rig, now on the ocean floor after the April 2010 explosion that killed 11 people.

"The responsible party may be financially accountable for debris removal costs and damages resulting from the pollution incident," the Coast Guard said.

A Transocean spokesman confirmed the company has been contacted by the Coast Guard concerning the oil sheens and said it is "committed" to investigating the report. But Transocean, which owned the rig that BP was using to drill the Macondo well, said BP may be the one ultimately responsible.

"If a volume of oil has remained in the riser, there is no question that it is oil from BP's Macondo well," said Transocean's spokesman Brian Kennedy. "As owner and operator, BP is the responsible party for all fluids that emanated from the Macondo well head, and BP has repeatedly acknowledged that responsibility."

A BP spokesman said the Macondo well isn't leaking oil and isn't the source of the sheens. "We will continue to cooperate with the Coast Guard to investigate other possible sources, including Transocean's riser," the company said in a statement.

The Coast Guard said video footage of BP's Macondo oil well shows that it isn't the source of the sheens.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency will work with Transocean to determine whether the wreckage is the cause. "Once a cause has been determined, we will move forward with the most appropriate course of action," she said.

The incident is the latest fallout from the three-month oil spill that began April 20, 2010, which resulted from the blowout of the Macondo well. The accident killed 11 people and released millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Transocean shares closed down 1.4% at $51.74 Tuesday. BP shares in the U.S. closed up 2.7% at $37.94.

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