Gulf of Mexico
U.S. Energy Information Administration

LA - Oversight lacking as companies abandon Gulf of Mexico oil and gas pipelines, federal audit finds

A federal audit found an alarming number of oil and gas pipelines left abandoned.

Energy regulators are allowing oil and gas companies to abandon pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico at an increasing rate and with little oversight while failing to monitor the integrity of almost 9,000 miles of active pipelines, a federal audit has found.

In a report to Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office determined that federal regulators rarely conduct or require underwater pipeline inspections.

Instead, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates the offshore industry, relies on reports of sheens or oily bubbles on the water’s surface and pipeline pressure sensors to detect leaks. Both methods are considered unreliable even by BSEE officials, who noted that subsea currents diffuse and spread leaked oil and gas, especially in deep water where most oil and gas production occurs, “thereby making any observed (oil or gas) difficult, if not impossible, to associate with a specific pipeline,” the GAO report said.

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