Second Chronic Leak Found Off Coast of Nigeria – Natural Seep?

Two large slicks were spotted on the same image of the Nigerian coast (5.75°N, 4.45°W) (5.75°N, 4.45°E).  One slick (we’re calling it SkyTruth Unknown 001, or ST_UNK 001) was featured in a March 27th blog post that compiled a time-series of images of the constant leak three miles off the Coast of Molume. Thirty miles farther from the coast, a larger slick has since captured our attention, and has been named ST_UNK 002:
In this image, courtesy of the European Space Agency, a long ribbon of surfactant stretches 40 miles parallel with the coast. This apparent oil slick seems to be coming from multiple sources concentrated near one small area, a typical feature of natural seeps.

This offshore slick was also observed on images taken on later dates (from January 12, 2012 to March 31, 2012), indicating that the oil or oily substance may be coming from a continuous leak. like a natural seep on the seafloor. The closest permanent structure is three miles south of the apparent source.

But it’s also possible that this chronic slick is caused by a damaged or corroded pipeline with multiple leaks; we just don’t have any data showing where the offshore pipelines are in Nigeria.  So if anyone is aware of this area’s history, further information would be appreciated!

Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire – Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana

Our SkyTruth Alerts system gave us a heads up that there was an explosion and fire around noon yesterday in the marshes of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.  One caller to the National Response Center noted flames shooting 150′ into the air; another caller, perhaps a bit more excited, claimed 800′.

At about the same time, a caller from Texas Gas Transmission Co. detected a huge drop in pressure in one of their gas pipelines, while noting a fireball in the marsh in the vicinity of the pipeline.  So far we’ve seen no mainstream news coverage of what must have been – and maybe still is – a spectacular pipeline failure.  This area can only be accessed by boat, perhaps explaining the lack of coverage.

The fire was burning so hot that it shows up as a fuzzy red spot in this low-resolution MODIS/Terra band 7-2-1 satellite image, taken yesterday at 1pm local time, about an hour after the fire was reported to the NRC:

MODIS/Terra 721 satellite image, April 9, 2012 showing fire from inferred gas pipeline rupture in Louisiana. Orange dots are offshore oil and gas platforms in federal waters; orange lines are some of the seafloor oil and gas pipelines.

Hopefully the line was shut off and quickly burned out but we’ll let you know if we see this fire on today’s satellite images as well.

Extreme Bilge Dumping, Angola

UPDATE: We figured out who the culprit was! Read all about how we identified the guilty party- FROM SPACE:

Original Story: We’ve been collecting quite a number of images showing the ongoing problem of bilge dumping across the globe and here is one that really catches the eye. This image, courtesy of the European Space Agency, was captured off the coast of Angola on April 6. It shows what appears to be an oily bilge dump approximately 92 miles long. The bottom image shows that you can clearly see the vessel that is probably responsible, circled in red:

 Radar satellite image showing a 92 mile long bilge-dump slick, taken on April 6, 2012. Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

You can be sure that we look at images such as this everyday and when we see ’em, you’ll see ’em. Eyes everywhere.

Gas Well Blowout in the North Sea – Small Slick on April 4

The out-of-control well owned by French company Total in the central North Sea’s Elgin field is still spewing natural gas into the air.  The good news is a crew was able to visit the rig yesterday, raising hopes that a top-kill can be conducted by pumping mud into the well from the rig itself, which would stop this blowout a lot faster than Plan B – drilling a relief well to perform a bottom-kill.  Also encouraging: the rate of gas flow seems to be decreasing.

We noted a small slick at this site on a radar satellite image taken March 27.  Another image, taken on April 4, also shows a somewhat smaller slick (see image below).  This is probably caused by natural-gas condensate, a volatile and toxic hydrocarbon liquid that evaporates relatively quickly.  We don’t see any reason to expect this incident to morph into a significant oil spill.

But this is yet another close call for the global oil industry since the disastrous Gulf blowout in 2010.  If this well had been tapping a high-pressure oil reservoir, like most of the new deepwater wells being drilled around the world, the outcome could have been a BP / Deepwater Horizon repeat. Ugh.  We’re not ready to see that mess again any time soon.

Radar satellite image showing small slick at North Sea blowout site, taken on April 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm local time. Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency. (When are we going to launch a radar satellite here in the US?)

Cuba Offshore Drilling Rig Spotted on Radar – Small Slick Reported

We’ve found it.

The big semisubmersible drill rig, built in China and now drilling a deepwater oil well for the Spanish company Repsol in the Florida Straits off Cuba (hey, it is a global industry), has finally made an appearance on a radar satellite image.

This Envisat ASAR image, shot at 11:43 pm local time on March 30, shows a trio of very bright spots about 17 miles north-northwest of Havana.  We think the largest of these spots, with an interesting cross-shaped “ringing” pattern often seen on radar images of big, boxy metal objects, is the Scarabeo-9 rig.  The other two spots may be crew vessels or workboats:

Detail from Envisat AASAR satellite radar image of Florida Straits, taken on March 30. 2012. We infer the large bright spot is the Scarabeo-9 semisubmersible drill rig.  Image courtesy European Space Agency.

The location marked in orange is a report we just got through the SkyTruth Alerts that a small possible oil slick was sighted nearby during a US Coast Guard overflight yesterday morning. We don’t think this is anything alarming; it’s probably just some of the typical oily crud you’ll get from an active drilling operation at sea, that we observe on a regular basis in the Gulf of Mexico with our Gulf Monitoring Consortium partners.

For those who want to know, here is our analysis of the location of the Scarabeo-9 drill rig based on this radar image.  If anyone can confirm this is indeed the location of the rig, please let us know:

 23.374496° North latitude / 82.492283° West longitude

Here’s a zoomed-out look, showing the coastline of Cuba and the city of Havana:

Envisat ASAR radar satellite image courtesy European Space Agency.

And here’s the big picture, showing Cuba, Key West and the rig location:

We’ll keep watching this area.  Many people are concerned about the potential of a major spill from this site affecting the east coast of Florida and the southeastern US, and the lack of oil spill response coordination and cooperation between Cuba and the United Sates.