We just got a satellite radar image of Bohai Bay taken June 11, 2011. It shows what appear to be oil slicks emanating from two platforms in the vicinity of the Penglai 19-3 offshore oil field operated by ConocoPhillips. This fits the story so far, that apparently unrelated spills with different causes occurred at two of the new platforms there. Radar is a powerful tool for detecting oil pollution at sea; it’s very sensitive to the “roughness” of the ocean surface. But not every slick – a flat patch of water – is an oil slick. Some slicks are showing calm water caused by slack offshore wind, heavy rain, thin ice, or natural surfactants from algae, phytoplankton, even large schools of fish.
So radar image interpretation benefits from long experience. Our experience leads us to be confident in the analysis provided below. We’ll keep checking to see if there are ongoing problems in this field.