Drilling rig fire south of the Louisiana coast

July 24th, 2013 |
Suomi/NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

Suomi/NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR image

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR image

POES AVHRR 3.74 µm shortwave IR image

POES AVHRR 3.74 µm shortwave IR image

The shallow-water natural gas drilling rig Hercules 265 (located in about 150 feet of water, 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana) caught fire late in the evening on 23 July 2013. This fire event was captured by polar orbiting satellites with VIIRS, MODIS, and AVHRR instruments (above) and also by the GOES-13 satellite (below). VIIRS data from the Suomi/NPP satellite (top image) showed a warm thermal signature (yellow color enhancement) co-located with a region of enhanced brightness on the Day/Night Band image at the location of the burning rig. Shortwave IR brightness temperatures were not particularly warm on the VIIRS and MODIS images — 37.5º C and 31.5º C, respectively — because thin high clouds were overspreading the region, and those cold clouds were also being sensed by the radiometer. However, an apparent small break in the high clouds allowed the AVHRR instrument to detect a maximum shortwave IR brightness temperature value of 50.5º C (red color enhancement).

GOES-13 detected a jump in 3.9 µm pixel brightness temperature on the 03:45 UTC image (the actual scan time of that region was 03:50 UTC, or 10:50 PM CDT), as shown below. The brightness temperature increased from 23º C to 29º C as the fire was detected. The thin clouds evident in the imagery were likely responsible for the relatively cool IR brightness temperatures exhibited by this fire.

GOES-13 3.9 µm images at 03:32 and 03:45 UTC

GOES-13 3.9 µm images at 03:32 and 03:45 UTC

GOES-13 3.9 um shortwave IR imagery spanning the first several hours of the fire (below; click image to play animation) captured the appearance of the initial fire hot spot, followed by the periodic partial obscuration from the satellite view as high clouds moved over the region. The fire was declared to have stopped burning early in the day on 25 July, after the well became clogged with sand and sediment, shutting off the supply of natural gas that had been fueling the fire.

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (click image to play animation)