BP / Gulf Oil Spill – Video of Main Leak Supports SkyTruth Estimates – Nearly 30 Million Gallons Spilled So Far

By now everyone has seen this video, released on May 12 by BP, that is reportedly showing the main leak from the damaged well as a result of the fatal Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, fire and ongoing spill:

BP video, reportedly of main leak, released on May 13, 2010.

The main leak is located along the riser pipe about 460′ from the blowout preventer; the pipe is laying on the seafloor. The second, smaller leak is just above the blowout preventer, and apparently accounts for about 15-20% of the total flow from the well. According to statements made by BP to the press on May 3:


The riser is kinked at a 90-degree angle about 5 feet above the blowout preventer, and oil is bleeding from an irregular crack, BP spokesman Bill Salvin said.

A second leak is 460 feet away on a section of the riser that lies on the gulf floor.


A third leak, about 800′ down the riser pipe, was sucessfully capped on May 5 but that operation did not change the rate of flow, which was simply diverted to the other two leak points.

Multiple scientists have reviewed this video; their estimates of the flow range from 840,000 gallons (20,000 barrels) per day to as much as 2.9 million gallons (70,000 barrels) per day. Add another 15-20% to those estimates for the secondary leak, and it’s clear that SkyTruth’s early alarm back on April 27 — that the spill is actually much worse than the official BP and government estimates — was valid, and conservative. By May 1 we had exceeded the official estimate of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster (about 11 million gallons); and by our count, at a rate of at least 1.1 million gallons (26,500 barrels) per day, we’re closing in on 28.9 million gallons (689,000 barrels) spilled so far (it’s Day 26 since the blowout began).

Where is all that oil? We don’t think we’re seeing that much at the surface in our satellite images. But scientists just announced they’ve discovered large underwater plumes of oil. Not all of the oil leaking from the well may be making it to the surface; dispersants, applied directly into the stream of leaking oil, and sprayed on the oil slick at the surface, are driving some of the oil underwater; and natural mechanical action of wind and waves can also cause oil to eventually sink. That may spare the beaches to some extent, but it raises questions about where all that oil is going, where will it ultimately end up, and what are the potential environmental and economic consequences.

BP / Gulf Oil Spill – Slick Getting Bigger?

The COSMO-SkyMed radar image taken yesterday is somewhat ominous – it shows nearly all of the slick from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and at 4,922 square miles (12,748 km2) it’s significantly larger than it appeared on May 13:

COSMO-SkyMed radar satellite image, May 14, 2010. Image courtesy CSTARS.

And we think we’ve discovered an unrelated leak from a nearby platform that was installed back in 1984. The MMS ID# for this platform is 23051 (look it up here). A small, dark slick appears next to this platform on radar satellite images from April 26, May 8, and May 13 as well as this May 14 image.

It’s not a major leak but it may indicate a chronic problem. Somebody should check that out to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.

BP / Gulf Oil Spill – Radar Image, May 13, 2010

NASA/MODIS images have been too cloudy to be much use for May 12 and 13 (see the most recent image we processed, for May 11). But a radar image taken by the Italian COSMO-SkyMed system clearly shows most of the slick in stark detail:

COSMO-SkyMed radar image (black-and-white) superimposed on cloudy NASA/MODIS image. Both images taken May 13, 2010. Radar image courtesy CSTARS.

The slick covers 4,922 square miles (12,748 km2) on the radar image, and is within about 25 miles of the Delta shoreline. The slick clearly extends south beyond the edge of the radar image; hints of it are visible on the MODIS image through the clouds and haze.

See all the images in our Flickr gallery.

BP / Gulf Oil Spill – MODIS Satellite Image – May 10, 2010

Yesterday’s MODIS/Terra satellite image has some of the usual complications – clouds, haze, and turbidity again may be obscuring portions of the slick. Observable slick and sheen covers 4,683 square miles (12,129 km2). Thicker, fresh-looking oil is apparent in the vicinity of the leaking well, and still appears to be entrained in a counterclockwise gyre (a circular current):

See all of the images in our Deepwater Horizon oil spill gallery. Follow us on Twitter, and you’ll know what we know as soon as we know it…

Spilltracker – Show Us What’s Happening On Your Beach

In partnership with Surfrider and Ocean Conservancy, SkyTruth has launched an interactive website, the Gulf Oil Spill Tracker, that lets Gulf-area residents document what’s happening to their coast. Anyone can search the site, using an interactive map, to find reports that others have submitted. Reports can include text descriptions, photos, and links to video and news articles. Anyone can submit their own report by clicking on the map to indicate the location, and uploading their own photos and info:

We intend to use this to document pre-spill and post-spill conditions, and to give cleanup volunteers a way to show the world the great work they’re doing. The more people who participate, the better, so please send this link to your Gulf-area friends, members, and other organizations!