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BP Oil Spill Data Tools

2010 July 8

As part of our response to the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve been analyzing environmental conditions, including air, water, sediment, and oily wastes.  Right from the beginning, we’ve followed our open government approach, which means providing the data as soon as we have it.  We’ve posted data in CSV files, a format that people could download and open in a spreadsheet.  We’ve also provided printable PDF tables and summaries on our BP spill site.

But we knew that people needed other ways to get the data, and we’ve been working on several options.  We launched Google Earth a few weeks ago, and today we launched Socrata.  I discuss each below.  And more is coming.


Our Socrata site (third-party site disclaimer) gives you several ways to explore data from the Gulf (basic instructions).  First, you can do some analysis right in your Web browser:

You can also download the data in several formats.  Beyond the CSV and PDF formats we currently provide, you can get JSON, XML and XLS.  And for the first time, you can build your own database tools using an API (application programming interface), meaning you’ll always have access to the latest data without having to download files.

You can also embed the data on your own site or blog because each dataset and each view has its own permanent URL. Just click the “Publishing” tab at the bottom of the screen to get the form, select the dimensions, and copy the code.  For example, I’ve embedded the air sampling data table below:

Powered by Socrata

If you create a free Socrata account, you can save your own analyses and link to or embed those.  Your analyses will always show the most recent data.  Other people can see what you’ve done, too.

We’ll continue to provide the data for download on our own Web site, but Socrata offers several additional opportunities.

Google Earth

Google Earth (third-party site disclaimer) lets you explore a virtual globe.  After a free download (it doesn’t run in a Web browser), you can get additional data files that map information about a wide variety of topics.  We’ve created a file you can download that includes some of our data and related information from other sources:

  • Sampling locations
  • Air monitoring locations and results for total volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM).
  • Links to EPA data, aerial photography and other information collected by our ASPECT air sampling plane, plus NASA, NOAA and the European Space Agency.
  • National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) map of boom locations and daily tracking updates of the oil spill

And we’re working to add even more data.

Here’s a screen shot:
Screen shot of Google Earth with EPA oil spill data

We need your help!

I’m excited to share these tools, but we can always improve them.  In the comments section of this post, please give us your suggestions.  Some examples:

  • Filtered views to provide beyond just what we’ve detected
  • Different ways of sorting the data
  • Mashups (ways to combine the data with other information)

And if you create your own views or download the data and produce interesting stuff, let us know!

Update on July 14: we launched another new tool so you can download data.

Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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21 Responses leave one →
  1. PATRICIA CHABAN permalink
    July 8, 2010


  2. William H permalink
    July 9, 2010

    great use of the internet. Nice to see something technical on the blog.

  3. TheDude permalink
    July 9, 2010

    There is no media blackout, open government means that the federal government attempts to cut down the time between data collection and release. Things don’t get filtered for public opinion or impact, only accuracy.

  4. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    July 10, 2010

    Excelente la EPA consecuente con la Política de Gobierno Abierto (trasparente) del Presidente Obama, promuebe la participación Democrática y el Debate fundado; da Voz a las Comunidades a nivel Global
    El alcance de los daños causados por el derrame de petróleo en aguas profundas en el Golfo de México, es Global; está causando daños irreparables al Planeta completo
    El Planeta Tierra es: “Los efectos residuales acumulados dejados por las actividades realizadas de las Sociedades de Seres Humanos, desde que surgió la primera Organización Social hasta el día de hoy
    El Planeta Tierra será mañana, todo lo anterior más los efectos residuales acumulados que dejen las actividades realizadas por las grandes Organizaciones Sociales (Naciones, Países, Grupos de Países, Organizaciones Globales, etcétera) desde el día de hoy y hasta el día de mañana (en 10 años, 20 o quizá 30)
    Los efectos residuales que el derrame de petróleo está dejando como heridas permanentes a todo el Planeta, son enormes
    La Trasparencia Democrática Global, aporta datos que nos permiten planear a largo plazo, a partir de Inentificar, Definir, Medir y Controlar los efectos globales que causará el derrame, para corregir, revertir los daños y evitar que vuelvan a suceder nuevos derrames en ningún País de Mundo
    Lo primero que hay que hacer en el proceso de Planeación es; construir una visión más o menos cklara y precisa de lo que queremos que el Planeta sea dentro de treina años

  5. Gonzo permalink
    July 12, 2010

    …It’s absolutely outstanding that even though it’s been already three weeks since a private individual meassured radioactivity in a small sample of oil from the BP oil spill and postd his findings in YouTube, there has been no official confirmation of denial of his findings that the spilled oil is indeed radioactive and therefore lethal to all life forms.

  6. Devra Davis permalink
    July 13, 2010

    Why not release the long delayed EPA dioxin assessment as an edited blog, to which additional comments can be provided by industry and environmentalists, providing they meet technical review for plausibility and civility??? It’s been 21 years in the making and will never get out otherwise.

  7. Ralph Dean permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Very interesting. I hope that they get it stopped soon and can clean up the oil, but I don’t see how they’ll ever clean it all up.

  8. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    July 14, 2010

    Oil and natural gas normally include small quantities of natural radioactive material. As uranium and radium are part of the earth’s crust, we detect them in oil and natural gas deposits.

    Oil and gas production and processing operations sometimes cause naturally occurring radioactive materials to accumulate in tanks and processing systems. Naturally occurring radioactive material can accumulate at elevated levels in the tanks when oil-field equipment is being used to collect oil because these materials are dissolved in water that was processed with the oil. At field and processing sites, there are systems in place that the energy industry uses to locate and decontaminate these radiological deposits.

    We anticipate that levels of radioactivity in the Gulf waters are near naturally occurring levels and are, therefore, not a specific risk to aquatic organisms as the ocean itself contains natural radioactive material.

    Here are several fact sheets on the subject:
    Department of Energy:


    American Petroleum Institute:

  9. Lloyd Cata permalink
    July 15, 2010

    BP still not delivering flow-rate data, so what basis for the fines; $1500-4300/brl?

    BP is a serial offender and the charge is negligent homicide. Lets see how EPA treats criminal felons.

  10. Andrew Zolnai permalink
    July 23, 2010

    Please go to this site where I made a movie of your day-to-day Google Earth Imagery (GEI):

    Why has your GEI stopped @ 15 July 2010? Kudos otherwise, A.

  11. Gonzo permalink
    July 24, 2010

    Thanks, Jeffrey, for your kind reply… Yes, right… But I have read that there exists a direct correlation between the concentration of radioactive isotopes from the conversion of uranium into torium and the concentration of methane in many oil samples from different oil wells. And that the average concentration of methane is around 5 percent in oils from many samples. But the oil from the BP oil spill in the Gulf contains over 40 percent methane, which is anomalously high, and therefore gives footing to believing that the radioactivity of this oil likewise is bound to be anomalously high!. Gonzo.

  12. Dave Smith permalink
    July 26, 2010

    Socrata appears to have some form of mapping tools, yet these are greyed out as the location column provided does not contain mappable location values, e.g. latitudes and longitudes. As the lat/long values are available via Google Earth data, it would be useful to also make them available via Socrata columns, to allow map-based visualizations based on user filters and other analytics being performed in Socrata.

  13. Heather permalink
    August 20, 2010

    I have just downloaded the google earth program and the associated file. I like the program and I’m especially interested in finding out more information about the “oil spill extent data.” I notice the earliest date for oil spill extent data is May 15. Do you know where I can find info about oil spill extent between the start of the incident up to May 15? Also, I’d like to know more about how the extent of the spill is determined. Additionally, it would also be nice if the program reported what the area of the spill was each day.

  14. Kyle permalink
    September 15, 2010

    This is a very useful tool for evaluating the environmental effects of the oil spill.

  15. Downloads permalink
    October 31, 2011

    Never mind your average web designer – you will want to work with professionals who know your industry, who care about you, and who can connect with fans that enjoy and support your work. You provide a couple of quality downloads for free, while the site provides an irresistible package for the savvy listener.

  16. July 22, 2012

    How accurate is this data?

  17. izel permalink
    March 22, 2013

    wow that is a lot of oil how will they ever fix it?

  18. jeff permalink
    April 5, 2013

    It would be a good idea to post periodic updates on cleanup progress e.g. water quality, shore condition, etc.

  19. jeff permalink
    April 5, 2013

    Another point re legal side of it (from Financial Times): “…If the numbers work, there is no need to provide proof that BP caused your loss – the law presumes BP caused the loss,” says another, which estimates that about 80 per cent of all businesses in the region qualify for compensation….
    “This is one opportunity that should not be overlooked as ‘too good to be true’,” wrote two accountants who advise on claims.”

    It is so sad that everyone is trying to make money on this disaster :-(

  20. Grady Brown permalink
    December 3, 2013

    I was a resident of Gulf Shores in Alabama during the crisis. In my opinion, BP did a brilliant job of handling what was one of our countries most challenging times.

  21. Mold release oil permalink
    January 11, 2014

    Technical implementation of the Mold release oil that is to expand here to give the extra benefits in commercial organization..Thanks to give the informative blog

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