Energy company says '2nd spill' suspected in Gulf is really work long under way

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Photographs showing a sheen of oil in the Gulf of Mexico southwest of the big BP spill are evidence only of government-approved work long under way, not a second major leak, an energy company said Tuesday.

Site owner Taylor Energy Co. LLC said in a written statement that a production platform about 70 miles southwest of the Deepwater Horizon disaster was collapsed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 by an underwater mudslide.

Pictures taken by an aerial photographer over the weekend suggested that oil was leaking from the drilling rig Ocean Saratoga, owned by Diamond Offshore Inc., and that a nearby vessel with a hose overboard was applying dispersant.

But Taylor said the work boat was conducting scheduled drainage of the subsea containment system. The site has three containment domes below the surface, the company said.

The domes had "substantially reduced" sheening over time, Taylor said, and leakage was slight because more than 100 feet of mud and sediment cover the wells. Federal authorities have approved the cleanup project, which is under about 500 feet of water, Taylor said.

Taylor Energy president Will Pecue said in the statement that the company had been working with both the Coast Guard and the Mineral Management Service "to address the resulting environmental impacts of one of the 10 most intense hurricanes ever recorded."

Diamond Offshore said late Tuesday there had been no leak from its rig.

The Coast Guard and MMS said earlier Tuesday that they were putting information together about the site but had not commented again by late in the day.

MMS records show Taylor Energy has been working on cleaning up, decommissioning and abandoning the site since 2005.

Hundreds of platforms and wells dot the Gulf of Mexico, and releases of oil are not uncommon.

Although Taylor Energy sold virtually all its properties in 2009 to Ankor Energy LLC, which retained most of Taylor's staff and top management, Ankor said Tuesday that the lease was still owned and handled by Taylor.