It has recently been found that the extent of minor oil spills is consistently underreported, and some, in fact, should be considered major.
Small spills occur fairly regularly in some ocean regions and often avoid the public attention that large spills generate such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Researchers at Florida State University collaborated with SkyTruth (a nonprofit organisation that uses satellite imagery to track environmental pollution) to analyse satellite images of oil spills. Their analysis of 67 oil spills revealed that minor slicks in the heavily drilled Gulf of Mexico are on average approximately 13 times the size of the reported estimates.
Although the size of the spills is not reported accurately, the researchers found that the majority of spills are reported to the relevant authority (the National Response Center),which is a legal requirement.
Implications and next steps: This method of monitoring oil spill reporting may be useful to ensure compliance and accurate information from UK oil companies, especially as energy exploration in UK waters and increasingly extreme environments continues to grow. This is a cost efficient means of tracking the true extent of oil spills as satellite data is readily available. The findings may be particularly relevant to the ‘Providing regulation and licensing of energy industries and infrastructure’ policy.
Nature News: http://tinyurl.com/d67b8ag