Satellite Image Shows Heat From Chevron Drill Rig Fire, Offshore Nigeria

K.S. Endeavor jackup drilling rig burning off Nigeria’s coast on January 16, 2012. Photo courtesy Chevron.

We’ve been following reports of a drill rig on fire off the coast of Nigeria, working for Chevron in the Funiwa field. We’ve also been collecting satellite imagery of the site.  Yesterday’s MODIS images had a big data gap right over this area, so we didn’t get a chance to see this until today. Here’s what it looked like this morning from space, captured by NASA’s MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite.  Clouds and haze, all too common in this part of Africa, obscure most of the area, and there is little sign of a big problem down below in the standard “true color” rendering:

MODIS/Terra true-color satellite image of Niger Delta region, January 17, 2012.  Clouds and haze obscure much of the area.

But let’s look again, this time with the 7-2-1 rendering that includes the mid-infrared wavelengths.  There is a bright red dot located approximately where we think the rig was working (we could use a more precise location if anyone has it):

MODIS/Terra 7-2-1 infrared composite of Niger Delta region, January 17, 2012. Clouds and haze are minimized, and the burning rig appears as a bright red spot just offshore along the curve in the Delta coastline.

[See zoomed-in images after the jump…]

Geek alert: this indicates strong emission from the middle-infrared part of the spectrum (band 7).  At high temperatures the Planck emission function is shifted toward shorter wavelengths.  This fire must be at least 1000 degrees Kelvin (1340 degrees Fahrenheit), hot enough to soften steel:

Let’s zoom in a bit and compare the true-color image with the 7-2-1 false color infrared composite:

Detail of MODIS true-color image along Niger Delta coastline, January 17, 2012.


Detail of MODIS 7-2-1 infrared image along Niger Delta coastline, January 17, 2012.  Bright red spot marks inferred location of the burning K.S. Endeavor jackup drill rig.

Of course, we’re continuing to monitor this pollution-plagued part of the world.