OIL SPILL MONITORING

Satellites help to track the extent and spread of oil spills

Oil spills are extremely dangerous and costly events that have far-reaching consequences, in terms of lost energy supply, long term environmental damage, threats to personnel and livelihoods. It has been estimated that 457,000 tonnes of oil escape into the ocean every year, which includes some 50,100 tonnes in Europe alone. The cost of a single major incident can be estimated from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster of 2010. In this one event, some 690,000 tonnes of oil and oil equivalent escaped into the ocean. In Europe, clean-up costs for oil spills are on average €120M p.a., with indirect and long term costs of about €149,600 per tonne of oil spilled. This translates into oil spill costs of €7.5Bn per year in Europe alone, with some longer term impacts not being quantified (EMSA).

 

Geocento has used its technology to assess the effectiveness of satellites for oil spill surveillance in eight different locations of interest to the oil industry around the globe. Three locations are shown above along with the potential acquisitions from radar imaging satellites, which are able to see the surface during all weather conditions adn during day and night, which is particularly useful in cloudy locations or at high latitudes.
Radar imaging satellites for oil spills
Above: EarthImages used to investigate surveillance capabilities using current imaging radar satellites over a week long period at 3 key locations for oil and gas activity: Harrison Bay, Alaska; offshore West Africa; North-West Australia. Note the better revisit capabilities in Alaska, because of its high latitude.
Radar imaging satellites for oil spills
Top: Harrison Bay, Alaska in early June showing significant offshore ice cover and below, in early September when ice is well offshore. Quicklook imagery from Spot-4 (Airbus).
Radar imaging satellites for oil spills
Radar imaging satellites for oil spills
Above: North-West Australia coverage from UK DMC-2 (from DMCii) and Spot-5 (from Airbus). North-West Australia has frequent cloud-free conditions, unlike many locations around the Earth, and so can be a good target for optical imagery.