Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gas Well Blowout in the North Sea

On March 26, Total reported a gas leak that forced them to evacuate more than 200 workers from a production platform in the Elgin field of the central North Sea, about 150 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland.  The Oil Drum has compiled excellent information about this serious ongoing incident. This Envisat ASAR radar satellite image, taken yesterday at about 9:23 pm local time, shows a patchy slick covering about 89 square kilometers (34 square miles).  The platform itself appears as a very bright spot on the radar image but it's covered up by our yellow rig icon marking the location:

Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

[[Location: 57.011667,1.837778]]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slicks in Campos Basin, Offshore Brazil - March 20, 2012

This Envisat ASAR radar satellite image of the Campos Basin, taken at 9:18 pm local time on March 20, shows what appear to be long, narrow slicks emanating from several Petrobras production platforms and FPSOs:
March 201, 2012 Envisat ASAR radar satellite image courtesy European Space Agency.
This is a complex image.  Platforms, FPSOs, drill rigs and vessels appear as bright spots on radar. The large, indistinct dark areas in the upper part of the image are also slicks, but not caused by oil (a "slick" is any patch of smooth water, appearing dark on a radar image). Instead, these patches are probably caused by areas of very low wind speed, and/or by heavy rainfall.  Sea-surface wind data, taken almost the same time as the radar image above, indicate there was unsettled stormy weather in the area. 


Monday, March 19, 2012

Mystery Slicks in Central Gulf - East Cameron South, Block 321

Every now and then we see something in SkyTruth Alerts that catches our eye. For the past few days we've noticed repeated reports of an unknown oil slick sighted near some platforms near Block 321 in the East Cameron (South Addition) area of the central Gulf of Mexico, about 92 miles off the Louisiana coast. We also see two slicks in the vicinity on an Envisat ASAR satellite radar image taken about noon local time on March 14.  The slicks aren't particularly big, on the image or in the reports, but their persistence in the area under strong winds blowing steadily from the southeast suggests that there is a continuous source of oil leaking at this site.  This is close to a major international shipping lane for the port of Houston, and there are also quite a few platforms and pipelines in the neighborhood:

Radar satellite image taken March 14, 2012 showing a pair of small slicks near the vicinity of oil slick sightings reported to the National Response Center on March 14, 15 and 16 (red markers). Orange lines and dots are pipelines and platforms. Image courtesy European Space Agency.
The water depth here is about 200-300 feet (note that a pipeline in this area was damaged during drilling operations back in 1978). Oil slick sightings were reported to the National Response Center, probably by personnel on the nearby platforms, on March 14, 15 and 16.  No source or cause is indicated in the reports.  We don't know if there is any active drilling occurring in the area. 

If anybody wants to swing on by and take a look, the center of the slick at right is located at 28.197404° North latitude / 92.783588° West longitude.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Chevron Reports Minor Slick From Leak in Campos Basin, Offshore Brazil

Chevron and Brazilian regulators reported that a small, fresh oil slick has appeared near the site of Chevron's blowout last November in the deepwater Frade oil field in Brazil's prolific Campos Basin. This is not entirely unexpected given the nature of the problem that Chevron had with the well being drilled by the SEDCO 706 rig: an unknown amount of oil escaped laterally from the well into surrounding bedrock, and worked its way up to the seafloor along a pre-existing natural fault.  It will take some time for all of that oil to emerge, so we've been anticipating chronic small oil slicks at this location.

But optical satellite imagery of this area (MODIS and MERIS) have had problems with clouds and haze for the past few days, so we haven't seen any sign of the latest slick. Radar images don't have that problem, but the most recent radar image we have was taken at about 9pm local time on March 9, and it looks clean around the SEDCO 706 site:

Detail from radar satellite image taken March 9, 2012, showing area of reported Chevron leak. Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fire Extinguishes Itself at Chevron Blowout off Nigeria

Chevron reports the fire in the ocean off Nigeria, blazing since their Funiwa-1A gas exploration well blowout occurred on January 16, finally went out on March 2.  It's likely that the well "bridged over" and plugged itself, shutting off the flow of natural gas that had been feeding the fire, something every driller hopes for when they lose control of a well. 

Work will continue on a relief well so that the failed Funiwa-1A well can be properly plugged and abandoned.

We don't see any signs of the fire on today's MODIS/Terra satellite image.