Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shell Reports 10-Mile-Long Slick in Deepwater Gulf of Mexico

Yesterday evening Shell reported sighting a 10-mile by 1-mile oil slick between two of their major deepwater oil production platforms, Ursa and Mars.  This is located in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf, 130 miles south of New Orleans and about 60 miles beyond the tip of the Mississippi Delta, in water about 3,200' deep. 
Yesterday's low resolution MODIS/Terra satellite image of the area, shot at 16:50 UTC (10:50 am local time) shows what appears to be a narrow, 17-mile-long slick in the vicinity of the two platforms.  We often see slicks from known natural oil seeps that are about this size; some in the Green Canyon area to the west show up well on this same image.  Low clouds and their shadows are scattered across the lower half of this view:


[[Location: 28.204381,-89.258767]]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire - Vermilion Parish, Louisiana

SkyTruth Alerts gave us a heads up that there was an explosion and fire around noon yesterday in the marshes of Vermilion 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.  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:

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.

[[Location: 29.23301,-91.035783]]

Friday, April 6, 2012

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. 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.

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.

[[Location: 57.011667,1.837778]]

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cuba Offshore Drilling Rig Spotted on Radar - Small Slick Reported

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:

Image courtesy European Space Agency.

[[Location: 23.374496,-82.492283]]