Oil leaks need to be detected as soon as they happen. Remotely acquired satellite images offer a cost-effective way to continuously monitor offshore assets. Airbus operates an unrivaled satellite constellation, which includes the TerraSAR-X radar sensor, which has the unique capability to acquire suitable images to enable detection of oil slicks regardless of the time of day or cloud coverage.
Airbus is now able to offer an offshore “insurance” monitoring service where radar imagery is regularly captured over a particular site or group of sites, whilst the full resolution imagery is only supplied when a particular incident occurs or following a specific request, enabling long-term cost-effective monitoring. This monitoring service is supported by Airbus’ specialist oil and gas team, who have extensive experience in interpreting oil slicks and spills from radar imagery using visual assessment for both exploration and pollution studies and are therefore able to provide an assessment as soon the image becomes available. Interpretation is based on the principle that radar waves are able to highlight the dampening effect oil has on the ocean’s surface.
An insurance monitoring project is undertaken using a two-phased approach:
Phase 1 – Screening
Airbus downloads a reduced resolution quick-look of the captured image. The scene is reviewed and a summary report map including the quick-look is issued, identifying any suspected anomaly or confirming that no further action is required. The report is typically delivered within 24 hours of image availability, with options for a faster service if required.
Phase 2 – Detailed Interpretation
If an anomaly is found in Phase 1, Airbus will respond to a client request for more detailed interpretation of the imagery. The full resolution scene is downloaded and a second summary report map is issued with the interpretation of the scene at full resolution. Delivery of the full report is typically within 24 hours of the request, with options for a faster service if required.
A number of delivery options are available including email, FTP or the Data Portal.
Airbus is currently undertaking a one-year project which involves twice monthly monitoring of an offshore site with ongoing hydrocarbon production. Radar imagery offers a significant advantage enabling image acquisition even during cloudy days. The remote nature and regularity of the service have the added advantage that less staff are required for site surveys and the interpretation of the findings, whilst the data provides the reliable overview needed to ensure the immediate environment around an asset is safe.