Investigation of Chronic Mystery Slick off Nigeria’s Coast

Ever since Shell’s oil spill from their FPSO in the Bonga field, we’ve been monitoring offshore Nigeria for oil pollution.  Radar images of this area are often riddled with narrow ribbons and small blobs where something oily may be floating on the surface of the water.  Teri noticed a suspicious slick on an image taken March 20, just a few miles off the coast near the town of Molume. This particular blob had caught her eye before, on multiple images she had analyzed prior to this one.

It seems to be a chronic slick from a continuous leak, which originates from or near a permanent structure.  Several images obtained from this area all show this slick, suggesting that a platform has been leaking some oily substance from at least January 12 to March 20, 2012 as seen in this time-series slideshow:

Ships and platforms (or other metal structures) display as white specks on radar images.  They’re not always easy to tell apart, and we haven’t found a nice government database of oil platform locations in Nigeria like we have here in the US. So we set about building our own platform database: after gathering multiple images from this location, a little utilization of GIS software allowed us to identify stationary platforms as opposed to moving ships. One of the platforms sits at the end of the chronic oil slick near Molume.

On January 12, 2012 and a couple of other dates the slick appears to have reached the beach, likely depositing oil ashore. It’s possible that oil coming from this source was attributed to Shell’s Bonga spill.  We don’t know who is responsible for this platform, noted with a green arrow in the time-series slide show above (larger images can be seen in this gallery).  It’s located at 5.972°N, 4.844°E, so if anyone does know the operator please contact us.
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