Timor Sea Drilling Spill – Montara Well is Permanently Plugged

Good news out of Australia – the well that blew out on August 21, spilled crude oil into the ocean and natural gas into the air for ten weeks, then caught fire and burned out of control for 2 days when the leak was finally stopped – has been permanently plugged and capped, according to a report from Upstream Online today. That’s almost five months since the blowout occurred. No doubt the plugging operation was made a bit more complicated due to fire damage sustained by the Montara oil platform:

No word yet on what will be done with the other wells that had already been drilled at the Montara platform. Will they too be permanently plugged, capped and abandoned? Or will the operator, PTTEP Australasia, attempt to put them into production?

Read all about the Timor Sea blowout and spill on this blog, and see photos and satellite images of the spill in SkyTruth’s gallery.

North Slope – Dirty Snow?

More Alaska stuff today: we thought you’d like to see some winter-time imagery of the oil drilling and processing infrastructure up on the North Slope. The otherwise featureless plain of snow and ice is marked by brown halos surrounding many of the roads and facilities. Check out all the images here.

This appears to be caused by traffic or diesel-powered equipment, stirring up clouds of dust and/or depositing soot. If so, it’s an interesting illustration of a recently recognized problem: this “dirty snow” absorbs more heat from the sun, turbocharging global warming and accelerating climate change from the Rockies to the Arctic.

Fort Knox Gold Mine, Alaska

SkyTruth just posted a small gallery of images showing growth of the Fort Knox open-pit gold mine, north of Fairbanks, from 2003 to 2007 (thanks to Google Earth for adding historical imagery). The mine opened in 1994, and in 2007 received approval from the state of Alaska to expand their operation to include a cyanide heap-leach process.


By 2007 the footprint of this mine was about 3,000 acres.

Coal Dust Threat in Seward, Alaska

That’s right: the home of pristine fiords and glaciers, verdant forests, stunning mountain scenery, cruise-ship-happy tourists…has a problem with coal dust. A relatively small amount of coal is mined in Alaska right now, but a lot of it ends up in big stockpiles in the coastal city of Seward, awaiting shipment to Asia and South America. Alaska can be a pretty blustery place, so dust blows off the coal piles and into town, and into the lungs of local residents. It’s not a good thing to be inhaling, so environmentalists just filed suit to force corrective actions.

We’ve created a gallery of images to give you a virtual tour of Seward and these massive storage piles, using high-resolution imagery in Google Earth that was acquired in March 2007. At that time the twin storage piles were a quarter of a mile long and covered almost 8 acres.

SkyTruth is Tweeting

Happy new year, everyone! New in 2010 – SkyTruth has launched a Twitter feed. Check out our latest tweets to the right.

We’ll use this to post quick updates on our work, breaking news on environmental incidents as we become aware of them, useful stuff about remote sensing, and links to interesting, cool and beautiful images. We just can’t get enough of that stuff. And neither can you, so please follow us onTwitter!