In September 2004, during Hurricane Ivan, an unprecedented undersea seafloor slope failure occurred in the Gulf of Mexico that toppled Taylor Energy’s MC-20 oil platform and swept it 500 feet downslope of its original location. Since the moment the storm passed, Taylor Energy has met all of its obligations and has been dedicated to an effective response. This includes working cooperatively with the Coast Guard, as well as other federal agencies, through a Unified Command structure that was established to direct the response effort. This includes investing roughly $480 million for plugging wells, placing containment domes, monitoring a residual oil sheen and commissioning environmental studies.
Hurricane Ivan causes an unprecedented underwater sea floor collapse that toppled Taylor Energy Company’s MC-20A Platform and 25 attached wells located in the Mississippi Canyon area, Block 20 (MC-20) in the Gulf of Mexico.
Taylor Energy follows all proper procedures and meets all regulatory obligations. Scientific studies determine that the site is so unique that conventional methods for plugging the wells are not feasible.
Taylor Energy sells all of its oil and gas production assets and funds an account under a trust agreement with $666,280,000 for a specific set of decommissioning obligations, including plugging wells. These funds cannot be used for Response operations, which include containment and monitoring.
From this point on, Taylor Energy exists only to respond to this incident.
Developing innovative new techniques, Taylor Energy plugs the wells that were capable of flowing and installs a containment system to capture oil. The remaining 16 wells did not pose an environmental risk.
A Unified Command, led by the Coast Guard, monitors the site and maintains readiness.
Former MC-20 Federal On Scene Coordinator remarks Taylor Energy is the most “responsible, Responsible Party.”
Taylor Energy completed all of the decommissioning obligations included in the Trust Agreement, except those that could cause more harm to the environment than good. Taylor Energy’s obligations under the Trust agreement put on “pause” to allow for scientific study.
A series of studies and technical workshops led by government officials and global experts conclude that further action poses the risk of causing far more environmental harm than good.
Despite the fact that Taylor Energy has completed all of the work required by the Trust Agreement except the work with a high risk of harming the environment, the Government stated that it will hold Taylor Energy’s funds remaining in the trust account indefinitely and possibly in perpetuity.
Taylor Energy sues the Government for breach of contract, because it cannot legally hold Taylor Energy’s funds in perpetuity. The lawsuit does NOT seek to relieve Taylor Energy of its regulatory obligations to respond to the incident. Taylor Energy continues funding the response and fulfilling its role in the Unified Command.
Taylor Energy constructs containment domes that are ready to be deployed in the unlikely event the situation calls for it. They remain dock-side as of 2019.
A Unified Command work group of government and independent scientists produce data that confirm that the sheen on the water’s surface is from the release of remnant oil from marine sediments on the ocean’s floor and that there is no evidence to support a leaking well.
Experts caution that further activities could disturb the sediment, resulting in an increased volume of buried remnant oil being released into the water column. Left undisturbed, scientists believe the current sheen is likely to gradually reduce through natural attenuation. Additionally, sediment may continue to be deposited on the site, further encapsulating the trapped oil.
As part of the breach of contract lawsuit government lawyers include unverified, deeply-flawed analysis that estimates the volume of oil leaking is thousands of times higher than the established record.
The Washington Post publishes a story based on this unverified, deeply-flawed analysis, concluding that “millions of barrels” have been leaking.
In response, the Coast Guard turns its back on a decade of undisputed evidence and expert scientific consensus developed under its own command to embrace an unproven, deeply flawed and exaggerated estimate of daily oil releases from the MC-20 site.
Coast Guard orders response actions that lead the response down a dangerous path.
Taylor Energy urges the Coast Guard to take a data-driven approach, relying on the scientific record developed by the world’s leading experts.
Taylor Energy sues the Coast Guard and its contractor to stop hasty actions that could cause harm to the environment.
Out of an abundance of caution, in January, Taylor Energy voluntarily takes action, deploying observation planes and cleanup vessels to investigate, quantify, and collect any oil that could be recovered. The activation found only 10.2 gallons, and no oil was capable of collection- the sheen was too thin.
To date, only trace amounts of oil has ever been capable of collection.