Media Highlights – 2011

Check out SkyTruth’s media page for the link to our Media Highlights – 2011 page. The page contains a list of all of SkyTruth’s major media hits from 2011, from the Op-Ed piece in the Huffington Post that John co-wrote with Dr. Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, to the Los Angeles Times blog announcing the launch of our SkyTruth Alerts System.

You can also read the Associate Press interview with John about the size of the Shell oil spill off the coast of Nigeria. That story was carried in several major media outlets like The Guardian and the New York Times. You can also find the radio interview as well as the television interview with WV Public Broadcasting, and many more media hits so what are you waiting for? Go have a look!

Blowout off Nigeria?

Given the sustained intensity of the fire on the K.S. Endeavor  drill rig that ignited off the coast of Nigeria yesterday morning, we’re starting to think a total loss of well control occurred.

Yep, that would be a blowout.  Two workers are still missing.

We assume the rig was drilling Chevron’s “Funiwa Deep” natural gas exploration well. Since gas was the target, we hope that means the risk of a major oil spill is low.

What’s next? The rig will probably collapse soon from the intense sustained heat. It’s possible that will extinguish the fire, although the natural gas and/or gas condensate release will continue to pose a serious fire/explosion hazard until Chevron can plug the leaking well. They’ll have to bring in another rig to drill a relief well. 

Depressingly familiar? You bet.  See the Montara blowout off Australia in 2009, and BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, for two of the more spectacular drilling failures in recent years.

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.

Chevron Drill Rig on Fire, Offshore Nigeria

Chevron reports one of their drill rigs caught on fire this morning off the southern Niger Delta near their North Apoi production platform. Reuters reports it’s a jackup rig, the K.S. Endeavor, which means it was working in water less than 300′ deep; the Apoi field is close to shore.  Some of the rig workers are still missing.  Hopefully in this incident, no lives have been lost.


 Photo taken early Monday morning showing fire at drill rig off coast of Nigeria.  Image courtesy SaharaReporters.

We’re looking for satellite imagery to monitor the situation.  Any time a drill rig catches fire there is the potential for a spill or gas release.

Chevron is also battling the fallout from their recent oil spill in deepwater off Brazil, and their ongoing legal battle over oil pollution in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, which they inherited when they bought Texaco in 2001.

Sediment-Laden Runoff, Campos, Brazil

Tragedy struck southeastern Brazil when heavy, persistent rain lead to a landslide that killed at least 13 people near Jamapará in Rio de Janeiro state. This is a distressingly persistent problem in Brazil, where landslides triggered by torrential rains one year ago killed nearly 1,000. We hope the rains ease off and give the people a break.

MODIS satellite image showing sediment-laden runoff from Paraiba River, 100 miles downstream from recent deadly landslide triggered by heavy rain.

This MODIS satellite image taken on January 12 shows cloud cover lingering over much of the region.  But a patch of brown coloration in the Atlantic Ocean along the coast near Campos is a sign of the tumult more than 100 miles inland: it’s caused by sediment-laden discharge of the rain-swollen Paraiba River, which flows past the site of the landslide and through the city of Campos in its way to the sea.