Platform 23051 vs. Ocean Saratoga Rig – Not The Same Thing?

UPDATE 6/11/10 4pm – We’re wondering if Platform 23051 was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and if the Ocean Saratoga rig is actually working at the site of the destroyed platform. This would make a lot of sense. If anyone has information that would confirm (or refute) this, please let us know.

UPDATE 6/11/10 5pm – John Wathen tells me that the pilot collected a GPS location while they flew over the Ocean Saratoga rig last weekend. John gave me the GPS coordinate, and it plots right on top of the MMS-given location coordinate for Platform 23051. So I think the platform was destroyed by Ivan, and the leaking well that the Saratoga is working to plug is the well that was under Platform 23051.

Conclusion: the persistent slicks we’ve been seeing on multiple satellite images are apparently caused by the continuing leakage from this hurricane-damaged well. It would be great if someone from MMS or the Coast Guard would confirm this.

Some recent media reports about our work related to possible leaks unrelated to the BP spill have gotten a few things wrong. Here’s a clarification: based on our analysis of multiple satellite images collected since April 25, we see what appears to be a small but persistent oil slick at or very near the known location of Platform 23051. According to MMS this is a fixed oil platform, installed in the 1980s, that has a crew onboard. If this is indeed a small oil slick, it might indicate a small chronic leak related to that facility; it might also be coming from a natural oil seep on the seafloor at or near the platform. There may be other causes that we are not aware of.

Based on the location we published for that platform (a location obtained from the MMS platforms database), a professional photographer flew over the general vicinity and documented what appeared to be an oil slick next to a semisubmersible drill rig. A company news release explains that this rig, the Ocean Saratoga, is working to plug a well that was damaged by Hurricane Ivan back in 2004. The well was reportedly covered by a seafloor landslide, so this is a difficult operation.

None of this changes our main question: how common are smaller spills like this, whatever their cause? What are the impacts? Is this a problem in the Gulf, or not? Would it be a problem with drilling elsewhere, such as in the Arctic or off the coast of Florida?

5 replies
  1. bfh269 says:

    thought somebody should let you know that Brighthouse Cable in Florida is rerouting your web page. everytime I type in it takes you to ther roadrunner/yahoo search site and there is no mention of skytruth when you search it. Brighthouse is doing the same thing with NOAA's website. you have to google it or click on a link from another page to get to either of your websites.

  2. Skruffy says:


    Yikes… and yikes. Platform 23051… Saratoga… (possible leaks) … and Atlantis (perhaps a Deepwater Horizon waiting to happen)… makes one wonder just what the hell "we" have done.

    In a discussion thread on, I read a claim (maybe industry propaganda, maybe not) that 90% of oil in the world's oceans is from natural seepage (at least before Deepwater Horizon). If there is so much natural seepage, doesn't it make one wonder why, if there's so much oil under pressure leaking out on its own, "we" go to such extreme, expensive, and risky measures as drilling a few miles into the planet's crust? Just wondering…

  3. John says:

    Skruffy – The Oil Drum is a great source of info. Natural oil seeps cumulatively are a big source of oil in the oceans, but they are typically very small sources of slowly leaking oil, and they are very widely distributed in a few parts of the world's oceans (the Gulf of Mexico is probably the biggest accumulation of natural oil and gas seeps). That makes them poor sources for commercially producing oil – each seep is too small a source of oil to be commercially profitable.

    bfh269: Try typing the full URL – – to get to our website. Thanks!

  4. Christian says:

    Hi John Amos
    Well done for your tenacity for pointing out this oil leakage. Get the mudlogs for this well and let us look at the reports handed in to the Department of Oil and Gas on a monthly basis. There must be a long history of reports by the Coast Guard on this mess.
    Let us follow up.
    Chris Landau

  5. John says:

    Christian – that's a great suggestion. Samples of the raw crude from the Macondo well should be made available to scientists, not just for fingerprinting the oil but also for determining specific gravity. And the entire suite of well logs, and the results of any flow-rate tests done on this well, should be public record.

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