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Shell’s Brutus production platform spills oil into Gulf of Mexico

A Shell production platform spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday creating a 2-mile-by-13-mile sheen on the surface of the water approximately 97 miles south of Port Fourchon, La., the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

The company estimated the size of the spill at 2,100 barrels and on Friday said it was dispatching five vessels to try to recover oil by skimming the water surface. By comparison, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was between 3.2 million and 4 million barrels.

Shell said Friday afternoon that it had deployed a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that pinpointed a flow line as the source of the leak. The line is part of the vast undersea infrastructure that collects crude oil from different fields in an area known as the Green Canyon. Shell shut four producing wells that had been flowing into the Brutus production platform. The equipment lies beneath water 2,900 feet deep, according to the BSEE.

Shell employees in a Shell helicopter observed the oil sheen Thursday morning, and the company reported it to BSEE.

“We are working to determine the exact cause of the release by inspecting the subsea equipment and flow lines in the Glider field,” the company said in a statement. “No release is acceptable, and safety remains our priority as we respond to this incident.”

Environmental groups jumped on the news to support their opposition to offshore drilling.

“The last thing the Gulf of Mexico needs is another oil spill,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “Make no mistake: the more fossil fuel infrastructure we have, the more spills and leaks we’ll see.” The group urged President Obama to halt new lease sales in the Gulf and Arctic.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 17 percent of U.S. oil production, according to the Energy Information Administration.