Robot Submarine Seeks Oil Sheen Source Near Deepwater Horizon Site

HOUSTON - A submarine robot is seeking the source of a surface oil sheen that matched oil from the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

The Coast Guard notified BP PLC (BP) and Transocean Ltd. (RIG) on Wednesday that a lab had matched the oil from the sheen to oil that gushed from the well drilled after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, but said the source was still uncertain: the oil could have been trapped in the wreckage of the rig or from debris left on the seabed after the explosion. Transocean, the world's largest deepwater driller, leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP.

Late Friday, the federal on-site coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon spill approved a plan put forward by BP and Transocean to investigate the source of the sheen. The companies submitted a response plan after the Coast Guard warned the two companies that they could be held responsible for additional costs associated with the sheen.

Brett Clanton, a spokesman for BP, said the company is in the process of implementing the plan approved last week, which consists of surveys by remotely operated vehicles of the seafloor infrastructure, as well as wreckage and debris at the Deepwater Horizon site.

"As it has done from the beginning, BP will continue to work closely with the Coast Guard and other federal agencies to investigate potential sources of the sheen," Mr. Clanton said.

Petty Officer William Colclough, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said Monday that the remote-operated submarine is working "in the vicinity of the sheen" in concert with an offshore supply vessel. A Coast Guard staff member is capturing images.

In a statement last week, the company suggested that the came from residual oil in the debris and pointed to a federal inspection last year that found the well wasn't leaking.

The sheen was first reported by BP on Sept. 16 about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and in the same production block where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. The Coast Guard, BP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have since monitored the sheen.


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