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U.S. Says Sunken Transocean Rig May Be Source of Oil Sheen

U.S. Says Sunken Transocean Rig May Be Source of Oil Sheen
An oil slick from the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is seen off the coast of Louisiana May 10, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Photograph: NASA via Getty Images

The U.S. Coast Guard said the wreckage of Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig may be the source of an oily sheen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard notified Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean today that it may be held responsible for the pollution. BP Plc’s Macondo well, which erupted in April 2010 off the Louisiana coast and destroyed the rig, is not suspected as a source of the sheen, the Coast Guard said on its website.

The sheen was sighted in the same area of the Gulf that includes the Macondo well, a region known as Mississippi Canyon Block 252. The disaster killed 11 rig workers, injured 17, sank the $365 million rig and shut vast swaths of the Gulf to fishing and tourism for months.

By the time BP cut off the flow of crude from the well after 87 days, more than 4 million barrels of crude had spewed into the sea to make the catastrophe the worst U.S. maritime oil spill. In today’s announcement, the Coast Guard said video shot on the seafloor by a remotely operated vehicle indicated the sheen didn’t emanate from the Macondo wellhead.

Brian Kennedy, a Transocean spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that any oil or other fluids that may have leaked from the crumpled pipe that connected Macondo to the rig emanated from the well. As such, BP is responsible because the London-based company was operator of the well, he said.

The pipe, known as a riser, had a capacity to hold 200 barrels of crude before it was mangled, bent and snapped as the rig sank, Kennedy said. Transocean already has agreed to accept responsibility for any diesel or other onboard fluids that may have spilled during the disaster, he said.

Transocean dropped as much as 3.1 percent minutes after the Coast Guard’s announcement. The shares fell 73 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $51.74, at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has lost 44 percent of its value since the disaster.

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