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Is The Deepwater Horizon Well Still Leaking, Or Just Business As Usual?

Post: September 09 2011 in: BP Oil Spill

On a flight with On Wings Of Care Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network documented a "spotty" oil slick close to the location of the MC252 well on August 19, 2011 - Breaking News--Bird's Eye View: GRN Spots Oil Near BP's Macondo WellBreaking News--Bird's Eye View: GRN Spots Oil Near BP's Macondo Well.

The "spotty" oil slick on August 19, 2011. Photo by Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network.
The "spotty" oil slick on August 19, 2011. Photo by Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network.

Then on August 23, 2011 reporters from the Alabama Press-Register visited the area by boat and found the same kind of "spotty" oil slick within one mile of the MC252 well and took a sample. The sample was tested by researchers at LSU that concluded that it could be oil from the MC252 well - Deepwater trouble on the horizon: oil discovered floating near source of Gulf of Mexico spillDeepwater trouble on the horizon: oil discovered floating near source of Gulf of Mexico spill.

The "spotty" oil slick on August 23, 2011. Photo by Alabama Press-Register staff.
The "spotty" oil slick on August 23, 2011. Photo by Alabama Press-Register staff.

The "spotty" oil slicks and the description by the Press-Register of oil drops floating to the surface are reminiscent of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Arizona has been leaking oil from it's fuel bunkers since it was sunk in 1941. It appears that the "spotty" oil slick could be oil coming out of the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig itself and the pipes that connected the rig to the well.

Oil drops leaking from the USS Arizona. Photo by James G. Howes, November, 2005
Oil drops leaking from the USS Arizona. Photo by James G. Howes, November, 2005

On August 30, 2011 On Wings Of Care made another flight to the MC252 area and found a sizeable and more typical looking oil slick but this one was about 16 miles from the MC252 well - Oil Sharks, Doilphins, and SeaToitles -- Enough is Enough!

The oil slick found on August 30, 2011. Photo by Bonny Schumaker of On Wings Of Care.
The oil slick found on August 30, 2011. Photo by Bonny Schumaker of On Wings Of Care.

SkyTruth, our partners in the Gulf Monitoring Consortium, have also been monitoring this situation. They were able to find the slick seen on August 30 on a radar satellite image from that day. It was not however visible on the satellite image from August 26 - Radar Satellite Image Shows Oil Slicks Seen August 30. They were not able to find the "spotty" slicks from the 19th and 23rd. However they did  find a report that BP shutdown its major Destin natural gas pipeline due to problems on August 31, 2011. The pipeline was "producing too much liquid" and also happens to be the structure closest to the slick seen on August 30.

Satellite image from August 30, 2011. The yellow marker titled "OIL SLICKS 30 Aug 2011" marks the position of the slick as reported by Bonny Schumaker from her flight. The dark gray around the marker is the slick as seen by radar satellite. The orange line is the Destin pipeline. The red and black square marks the MC252 well location. Graphic by SkyTruth.
Satellite image from August 30, 2011. The yellow marker titled "OIL SLICKS 30 Aug 2011" marks the position of the slick as reported by Bonny Schumaker from her flight. The dark gray around the marker is the slick as seen by radar satellite. The orange line is the Destin pipeline. The red and black square marks the MC252 well location. Graphic by SkyTruth.

Based on all of the evidence that we are aware of, we believe that it is unlikely that the MC252 well or the relief well are leaking. However, we do believe that what we are seeing is business as usual in the Gulf Of Mexico.

On many of the flyovers performed by On Wings Of Care and our GMC partner SouthWings and on many satellite images analyzed by SkyTruth multi-mile-long slicks of crude oil can be seen coming from the "infamous" chronically leaking "Platform 23051" site. A well that has been leaking since it was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004!!

Satellite image of a 10 mile long oil slick emanating from the "Platform 23051" site on June 28, 2011. Graphic by SkyTruth.
Satellite image of a 10 mile long oil slick emanating from the "Platform 23051" site on June 28, 2011. Graphic by SkyTruth.

Slicks from numerous other sources have also been documented by flight and satellite monitoring over the past year. We believe that the reality is, now that the BP Oil Disaster has caused us to pay more attention to oil and gas activities in the Gulf Of Mexico, we are finding out that spilling oil into Gulf waters is a routine occurrence. As one of our partners likes to say, "BP isn't the only game in town."

Oil slick emerging from a Texas Petroleum facility on August 19, 2011. Photo by Bonny Schumaker of On Wings Of Care.
Oil slick emerging from a Texas Petroleum facility on August 19, 2011. Photo by Bonny Schumaker of On Wings Of Care.

A virtually complete lack of oversight and enforcement of the oil and gas industry in the Gulf Of Mexico has led to the routine discharge of pollutants into our Gulf air and water. This is why efforts like LEAN, Save Our Gulf,  Gulf Monitoring Consortium and other grass roots efforts to demand that industry in the Gulf region operate in a clean and safe manner are so critically important.  If the Government will not work to protect our health, safety and quality of life, then we will!


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