Global Seeps for Pollution Monitoring

Monitoring oil slicks from shipping and offshore facilities

Due to oil dampening surface waves, this ‘flat’ ocean surface gives low backscatter and a dark signature in radar images allowing them to be readily mapped independent of cloud conditions. Such information is widely used in the hydrocarbon industry to identify new fields and risk manage exploration activities.

The same techniques can be applied to detecting slicks created by oil spills from shipping and offshore facilities

Specific areas can be monitored routinely or on demand at a variety of scales.

Because of their high radar reflectance, rigs and ships are easily detected by SAR systems either through automated algorithms or manual image interpretation.
Ship and rig locations along with slick morphology is used in the identification of potential pollution slicks.

Pollution monitoring program in the Persian Gulf using TerraSAR-X data

Pollution monitoring

TerraSAR-X data used for pollution monitoring
in Persian Gulf

TerraSAR-X is one of the new generation of high resolution SAR satellites providing resolutions down to 1m and short re-visit times making it perfect for offshore monitoring. TerraSAR-X was used in stripmap mode for a recent pollution monitoring program in the Persian Gulf (see image).

Firstly ship and rig locations were mapped. Potential slicks were then classified into three pollution confidence levels based on context and morphology.

The entire process of image acquisition, processing, information extraction, map production and delivery were completed in this case within 24 hours. Such timely results were delivered directly to offshore crews for active decision making. 

Global Seeps for Pollution Monitoring

Did you know?

The use of spaceborne SAR systems for mapping ocean features is a well established technology. Airbus Defence and Space has interpreted over 13,000 satellite scenes over the past two decades for the purpose of mapping natural oil slicks for the Global Seeps database.


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