Isaac Moves North – Small Oil Slick Sighted at Chevron Platform

As Isaac steadily weakens and moves off to the north, the clouds are starting to part over the Gulf of Mexico and workers are making their way back to the offshore platforms that had been evacuated.  Reports of actual and potential oil spills in the Gulf are coming in to the National Response Center, and can be seen on our SkyTruth Alerts map.  Several have caught our eye, including a report from Chevron that one of their wells was improperly shut-in when they evacuated Platform B in High Island Block 563.

The slick from this leaking well appears on yesterday’s MODIS/Aqua visible satellite image. It’s a very small slick, so this doesn’t look particularly serious yet.  We hope they can get the problem fixed soon.

MODIS/Aqua visible satellite image of northern Gulf of Mexico taken August 30, 2012. Site of reported leak from Chevron platform is marked.  Small red dots are locations of oil and hazardous materials spill reports (see SkyTruth Alerts).
Detail from above showing apparent slick emanating from location of Platform B, consistent with NRC report.

 

Blast at Venezuela Oil Refinery

On Saturday, August 25, an explosion and fire at one of the world’s largest oil refineries, the Amuay on the coast of Venezuela killed 41 people and injured more than 150, according to the Washington Post.  While the actual cause has not yet been officially determined, officials have said that a gas leak led to the blast. The fire was finally extinguished after three days, according to the Christian Science Monitor.  Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all who were killed or injured in the blast.

Here’s how it looked from space on August 26:

MODIS/Aqua 7-2-1 infrared satellite image taken on 8/26 showing large area of extreme heat (bright orange) from the fire at the Amuay refinery in Venezuela.
MODIS/Terra true color satellite image taken on 8/26. Heavy black smoke, topped by a line of bright white pyrocumulus clouds, can be seen coming from the vicinity of Punto Fijo and trailing out to the nothwest over the Caribbean Sea.

 

Isaac Downgraded to Tropical Storm

Isaac’s sustained winds have died back down to 70 mph, downgrading it to tropical-storm status.  But it looks bulkier than ever on today’s MODIS satellite image, with a diameter of about 480 miles.  And it’s been practically parked along the Louisiana coast most of the day, moving to the northwest at only about 6 mph.  Heavy rain is pounding the region and ratcheting up the flooding threat. Some relief could come for the New Orleans area tomorrow as the storm moves inland.

MODIS/Terra visible satellite image of Isaac taken at 12:10 pm Central time on August 29, 2012. Offshore oil and gas platforms and pipelines shown in orange.

 

Report Oil Spills to NRC and Gulf Oil Spill Tracker

There’s some serious speculation that old oil from the 2010 BP / Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf could get churned up from the seafloor, and exposed by erosion of beaches and marshes, as a result of Hurricane Isaac’s wind and wave action. And as we’ve seen in past storms, new leaks and spills can occur from storm-pummeled platforms, pipelines, storage tanks and other facilities.

If you do see what you think could be a leak or spill of oil or hazardous materials, please report it to the National Response Center.  This is the nation’s official front-line agency for collecting and distributing information about pollution incidents. You can report via their website or by calling their toll-free hotline, 1-800-424-8802.  If your report to the NRC includes a good description of the location of your sighting (we love latitude/longitude coordinates, but the nearest street address is also useful) then we’ll be able to grab it from the NRC and put it on our SkyTruth Alerts map, so everyone can see your report. 

If you think you’ve observed oil pollution, you can also submit a report on the Gulf Oil Spill Tracker site for all to see. Including some photos with your Spill Tracker report is a great way to document possible new spills or the re-deposition of old BP oil, and helps validate your report. 

But above all, be safe.  Please don’t go out chasing oil spills in hazardous conditions.  Plenty of time for that after Isaac has moved on and the danger has passed. 

Isaac is Onshore – Barely

Hurricane Isaac, with sustained winds of 80 mph (Category 1), made landfall last night around Grand Isle on the west side of the Mississippi Delta. But it’s barely moved, and is still lashing a large area with strong winds and rain. Here’s the latest GOES satellite image:

GOES infrared satellite image of Hurricane Isaac, taken at 7:15 am Central time on August 29, 2012.

 

Hurricane Isaac Heading for Shore – MODIS Image

Heeeeer’s Isaac….

This MODIS / Terra color satellite image of the Gulf was taken at 16:30 hours UTC (1:30 pm Central time).  Isaac is now a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds of 75 mph, moving steadily toward the northwest at 10 mph. It’s expected to make landfall along the Louisiana coast tonight.  Right now it’s passing through the offshore oil fields, throwing a right hook at the platforms and pipelines on the east side of the Delta from Breton Sound to Dauphin Island and Mobile Bay.  That northeast quadrant of the storm is where the strongest winds and biggest waves usually occur. Data buoys in that area are now reporting 18 foot waves and surface wind speeds of 60 knots (69 mph):

MODIS / Terra satellite image taken at 1:30 pm Central time on August 28, 2012. Hurricane Isaac, looking more organized and “wound up” than in previous images, should make landfall tonight.
Same image with oil and gas platforms and pipelines shown in orange.

 

Isaac Entering Gulf Oil Fields

Isaac is still a strong tropical storm with winds at 70 mph, now hitting the offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. Isaac is by no means a pushover, posing a serious threat of flooding to New Orleans and surrounding areas inland, but it is far weaker than Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which slammed the oil fields as Category 5 storms in 2005, destroying dozens of platforms, breaking hundreds of seafloor pipelines, and spilling millions of gallons of crude oil.

Here’s the latest forecast track for the storm.  Oil and gas infrastructure shown in orange.  The predicted path for Isaac’s center is shown as a black line, with the “cone of uncertainty” for the path shown in purple.  This does not show the extent of tropical-storm-force winds thatt extend outward for a considerable distance from the storm’s center:

National Hurricane Center forecast storm track for Isaac, August 28, 2012 (Advisory #29).  Orange dots and lines are offshore oil and gas platforms and pipelines.

 

Weather satellite image of Isaac – August 28, 2012 at 6:45 am Central time.