Large oil spills detected every month in Ghana’s coastal waters

Event date: 
15 June 2021

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), as part of the European Space Agency (ESA) project EO4SD – Marine & Coastal Resources Management, operate a regional-scale oil spill monitoring system covering large areas offshore West Africa.

The service utilizes Sentinel-1 Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery and is provided in partnership with the Centre de Suivi Écologique (CSE) in Dakar. The service reports detected spills and provide coordinates to relevant regional stakeholders, as well as weekly summaries of all detections. Detections indicate significant spills (covering multiple sq. km) or oily discharges that occur frequently (weekly).

In Ghana, the service has identified large-area spills or discharges occurring at least every month originating from approximately the same location. Each spill affects over 10 sq. km of the sea surface, an area larger than 1,400 football pitches. Oil development along the West African coastal shelf is increasing; in particular, Ghana’s energy sector has been expanding its crude oil production with the recently opened Twenboa-Enyenra-Ntomme (TEN) and Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) fields following the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ruling in the last half of 2017. Oil slicks can cause significant damage to the marine environment as well as negatively affect the health and livelihoods of local people. Quick remediation and cleanup responses aim to reduce impact and prevent spills from reaching sensitive coastal habitats and exposing coastal communities.

Monitoring for oil spills by boat or aerial surveys over large areas, such as the national 370 km wide Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), would be prohibitively expensive, where operational monitoring services use Earth Observation (EO) data provide a more cost-effective solution for initial detection. Overlaying the most recent detected oil spill (measuring 18 sq. km) onto ocean surface current models indicate that these spills could be reaching heavily populated areas such as Accra and important coastal habitats such as the Keta Lagoon Ramsar

Watch the Video on the Oil Spill, Ghana (click image below)