ExxonMobil Discovers Leak in Pipeline Offshore Louisiana

ExxonMobil has located the leak in a crude oil pipeline in the coastal waters of Louisiana but isn't sure when the line will be back in service, a company spokesman said Thursday.

On Tuesday, the company shut down two pipelines that deliver crude oil from wells in the Grand Isle area of the Gulf of Mexico because it wasn't certain which line was leaking. The leak has now been located in the 12-inch-diameter line, Ron Embry, a company spokesman said.

Gulf of Mexico crude oil production hasn't been affected by the shutdown of two oil pipelines because the crude oil was rerouted through other pipelines, he said.

The pipeline should be repaired in two or three days but Embry wasn't certain how soon it would be back in service. That will depend on how long it takes to test the line and get regulatory approval to put the line back in service.

In the meantime, ExxonMobil is studying the possibility of restarting the 8-inch diameter line while the other pipeline is readied for service, he said.

The two lines, which carry heavy Louisiana sweet crude, together have a nominal capacity of 140,000 barrels a day but normally carry 80,000 barrels a day, Embry said. As reported, the amount of oil spilled from the pipeline leak was estimated at less than 15,000 gallons, which is classified as a medium-sized leak, said Lt. Brett Thompson, chief of response for the Marine Safety Office.

The Coast Guard spotted the leak late Tuesday morning during a routine flight over the coastal waters of Louisiana, Thompson said. The leak is in the Barataria Bay area. The spill is currently being cleaned up and wildlife wasn't harmed, he said.