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Environmentalists Use Satellite Photos To Examine BP Oil Spill

January 20th, 2016

The environmentalist group SkyTruth used satellite imagery to determine the extent of the BP oil spill, even as company officials under-reported the spill’s effects to both the press and government agencies. The analysis of the satellite photos showed that the flow rate of the BP oil spill was as much as 60 times more than BP had reported to government agencies. This analysis contributed to the billions of dollars in fines and lawsuits targeted at the oil giant for the 2010 disaster.

Details of the BP Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, an underground pipe at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana exploded. Eleven workers lost their lives, while at least 40 others suffered serious injuries. The BP oil spill spewed thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months. The damage spread from the Texas Gulf Coast all the way to Florida. Thousands of individuals reported health problems attributed to the BP oil spill, and thousands of businesses lost income due to the environmental devastation.

Satellite Images Reveal BP Oil Spill Extent

John Amos, the president of SkyTruth, told reporters about his analysis of the images related to the BP oil spill. He said that, due to cloudy weather, the satellites could not take clear enough images to show the extent of the spill for the first six days after the explosion. A week after the spill started, the images showed an oil slick 50 miles long and covering more than 800 square miles. His calculations showed that the BP oil spill was much more severe than BP had been reporting to federal authorities.

BP Oil Spill Disaster Goes Under-Reported

When the BP oil spill first occurred, officials with the company reported that the exploded well was pouring out 1,000 barrels per day. SkyTruth sent their satellite images to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for analysis. Scientists at the NOAA determined that the spill was pouring out at least 5,000 barrels per day. In June, as the spill was at its peak, NOAA researchers used SkyTruth images to calculate the BP oil spill flow rate at 62,000 barrels per day.

SkyTruth: Beyond the BP Oil Spill

Mr. Amos and the SkyTruth group have extended their expertise to other environmental disasters since the BP oil spill. The group has also been tracking another oil spill off the Louisiana Gulf Coast. An underwater oil well that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 has been leaking oil into the Gulf ever since. According to the satellite images gathered by SkyTruth, the well has been leaking as much as 20 barrels a day for over ten years. Although the wells are located in federal territory, no government agency has attempted to repair the well.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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