February 4, 2020 / 12:43 AM / in 18 days

Abandoned oil well most likely source of crude staining Texas port

HOUSTON (Reuters) - An abandoned oil well outside of Houston is likely the source of crude oil leaking into a Texas bay near the largest U.S. petrochemical port, the state’s energy regulator and an oil company executive said on Monday.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Gaither Petroleum Corp and state and emergency workers were attempting to contain and retrieve crude oil found on Sunday in Tabbs Bay off the Houston Ship Channel, and secure the source of the leak, officials said.

About 630 gallons of crude leaked into the bay from an out-of-service well, according to a Coast Guard statement on Monday evening. The cause of the leak was not yet known, it said.

Inspectors who visited the site estimated about 2,000 feet (610 m) of shoreline was affected, according to a report filed on Monday with the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s energy regulator.

The leak has not affected shipping traffic on the Houston Ship Channel, the Coast Guard said. The ship channel is home to nine oil refineries that process about 12% of the national total, and is the largest U.S. petroleum export port.

The suspected oil well is in about 3 feet of water (0.91 m) and dates from the 1920s.

It was sealed off within the past three years, said Doug Gaither, president of Gaither Petroleum, whose company owns the lease where the well is located. His company does not own the well that is the likely source of the leak, he said.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Peter Cooney

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