Tag Archive: oil spill


This is a re-post from the blog over at SkyTruth.org.  My work in satellite imagery might help with evidence in the case!

Waterkeeper Alliance Takes Legal Action on Chronic Leak at 23051 Site in Gulf

One of our partners in the Gulf Monitoring Consortium, Waterkeeper Alliance, has filed a notice of intent to sue over the ongoing, chronic oil leak from the site of former platform 23051 in the Gulf of Mexico.  We discovered this leak last May while analyzing imagery of the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  According to the operator, Taylor Energy, and the Coast Guard, the wells at that location were damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and, we presume, have been leaking 24/7 ever since. Repeated observations of the site on satellite images and via aerial overflights confirm that the leak is ongoing.

Occasionally we’ve observed a deepwater drill rig, the Ocean Saratoga, at the site, working to plug these leaking wells.  But it’s not there continuously which makes us wonder: is the rig being pulled away from time to time for more lucrative drilling and workover jobs that pay a higher day rate?  We don’t know.

We’ve compiled a chronology of what we know about this chronic leak site.  We’ll continue to add to it as we see more evidence of ongoing leakage, part of our daily monitoring of the Gulf. If you’d like to bird-dog this site yourself – or anyplace else in the US for that matter – check out our SkyTruth Alerts. Or just click one of the following:

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Eyes in the Sky

I’ve recently begun volunteering at SkyTruth, a non-profit group that “promotes environmental awareness and protection with remote sensing and digital mapping technology.”

Specifically, I’m helping gather data about oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico that have occurred over the last decade.  To do this, I’m looking at satellite images from NASA and comparing them to National Response Center (NRC) reports that have been filed to see if the quantity of material reported matches what we see in the images.  My workhorse application is Google Earth so I can make notes, measure the slicks, and analyze the images against our data maps throughout the Gulf region.

An example image I’m working with:

I really didn’t know much about either the process of drilling in the Gulf or the bureaucracy involved.  But working with John (the President) has been an eye-opening experience and quite rewarding as I manage to find good images to analyze.  (There are a limited number of months when the sun is at the right angle to detect slicks, and clouds often obscure the area I need to examine).

I’ve just finished the 2009 images, and I’ll post more soon about what I’ve learned from my analysis so far.

Coming so quickly on the heels of the Goldman Sacs hearings, the lack of ‘teeth’ in Congress’ dealing with large corporations has become glaringly evident.  BP seems to be able to control the flow of information, dogmatically adhere to their mantra about paying “legitimate claims” (without ever defining that phrase despite the insistence of Congress), and Transocean has already claimed over $400 million in insurance while seeking to cap their own liability claims at a paltry $27 million.

It seems that Salazar’s insistence about the government “keeping their boot on the throat of BP” is not only hyperbole, but a pitiful attempt to bolster the facade that the government is somehow in control of the situation.  If they cannot bring the companies to heel, who can we turn to?