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'Orphaned,' breached well off Louisiana coast could be capped soon

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: The well struck by a boat Tuesday could be capped by noon, councilman says
  • NEW: Crews are assessing the leaking oil well and devising plans to cap it
  • Spokesman for Louisiana governor says the well was abandoned, declared "orphaned"
  • Response crews are taking advantage of "significant resources" already in the area

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- A well leaking oil and gas after being struck by a vessel off the southeastern Louisiana coast Tuesday could be capped as early as noon Wednesday if all goes as planned, Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told CNN.

Crews from Wild Well Company, a Houston, Texas-based company that caps wells, were assessing the situation in the Barataria Waterway Wednesday morning and devising a plan to deal with it, Roberts said.

Gas and oil were still flowing from the well, Roberts added.

Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, described the well as "orphaned." He said Tuesday it had been owned by Cedyco Corp. of Houston but was declared abandoned by the state in November 2008. Plotkin said the state does not own the well and added that the designation does not absolve Cedyco of responsibility for the well.

The tug vessel Pere Ana C was pushing the dredge barge Captain Buford Berry when it hit the wellhead, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard has tapped the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which the federal government makes available for natural resource damage assessments.

Environmental Safety and Health personnel were on the scene to clean up, as well as the Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team from Mobile, Alabama.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal Gulf of Mexico oil crisis response, said crews were able to take advantage of the "significant resources" -- vessels of opportunity, skimming equipment and boom -- already in the area to work on the Gulf oil spill. He said the breached well was surrounded by boom -- floating material that restricts the spread of oil on the surface.

"The Coast Guard is also beginning oil spill response actions at the site -- deploying hard and sorbent boom both north and south of the oil release," Jindal said Tuesday. "Air assets have also been deployed to ensure response personnel are not working in a flammable atmosphere. Once the leak source is secured, the Coast Guard will ramp up their skimming operations to collect free-floating oil.

"We know this well is close to important marshes in the Barataria Bay area, so it is important that this well is cut off quickly and the oil is contained and removed," he said.

A safety zone has been established 2 miles around the site to protect vessels and mariners from the hazards associated with the release, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident, which happened about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

CNN's Vivian Kuo, Erin Lowry, MaryLynn Ryan and Tristan Smith contributed to this report