A Watchful Eye on Libya’s Largest Oil Refinery

THE CHALLENGE 

Oil represents one of Libya’s main sources of export revenue and with an estimated 48 billion accessible barrels, the volatile nation has one of Africa’s largest reserves. Since 2011, Libya’s oil industry has been hit by frequent attacks, causing oil production to shrink to less than a quarter of its pre-uprising levels.

Libya’s largest oil terminal, which is also home to a refinery and a number of crude oil storage tanks, is located near the port of Ras Lanuf. In 2016, a series of terrorist attacks set several of the tanks on fire, causing them to burn uncontrollably for several days. Pipelines in the area were also attacked during that time, with oil workers struggling to isolate pipelines and contain the damage. The area, which is located 220 kilometres southwest of Banghazi and 200 kilometres southeast of Surton, needed to be regularly monitored to provide stakeholders with accurate updates of the situation on the ground and to enable an appropriate response to be planned.

The area immediately around the Ras Lanuf Oil Refinery was of particular interest and an accurate level of awareness was essential.To achieve this level of up-to-date visibility, the decision was taken to use Airbus’ very high-resolution Pléiades satellites constellation, which can be flexibly updated in accordance with a client’s specific requirements and provides decision-makers with the required detail, without incurring unnecessary risk or costs associated with in-field surveying.

As regular monitoring of the area was essential, the OneSeries option was selected as the most appropriate service from the One Tasking portfolio.

OneSeries allows for regular tasking of Airbus’ satellites, at the customer’s required frequency, enabling constant monitoring of a specific location or area, with cloud coverage guaranteed to represent less than 10% of the image. As requested for this project, the images were captured and delivered every two weeks.

THE SOLUTION & RESULT

The first image was captured on the 16th of January 2016. It shows dark grey and black patches – oil leaks saturating the desert’s sandy ground. Visually, the oil leaks are in stark contrast to the light brown colour of the desert which surrounds the oil refinery. The image also allows the client to clearly identify burnt out tanks. An intact tank, as visible in the North, has a white roof and white side-walls. In contrast, the damaged tanks are black on the image. Some of the oil tanks don’t even have visible side-walls anymore and they appear to have been torn apart due to explosions or destroyed in the fire, with oil seeping into the sandy ground around them.

Another image taken on the 30th of January 2016 shows that the situation on the ground has worsened further. A fire with black smoke and a new oil leak are visible in the North, whilst further tanks in the storage facility’s centre appear to be damaged. Near infra-red views show the fire in great detail, sufficient enough to understand the real situation and to inform the emergency response.

Images taken on the 13th of February show that the situation on the ground now is under control – the leaks haven’t worsened and there is no smoke or fire visible anymore.

Images taken on the 29th of February show that cleaning work of the facility has started with some of the oil leaks cleared and areas around destroyed storage tanks cleared.

The following images captured on the 12th and 30th of March and the 11th of April further confirm that the situation on the ground hasn’t worsened. This illustrates the advantage these remotely acquired images have, as costs and risks that are associated with visiting the site in person, can be reduced.

CONCLUSION

The timeliness of the service allowed the client to monitor the oil storage facility and the ongoing attacks, as well as clean-up activities when control was regained. This example shows how Airbus’ OneSeries option of the One Tasking service allows frequent monitoring of critical areas on the ground, ensuring up-to-date information is provided to emergency response teams and decision-makers. It demonstrates the crucial position earth observation satellites have in providing up-to-date intelligence, especially when the situation on the ground is dangerous.

 


Mexico’s Strongest Earthquake in a Century

On Thursday 7th September, an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the waters off Mexico’s Southern coast. Affecting the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco, the earthquake killed 96 people in the region.

In order to get the first critical information on affected areas and help local authorities quickly react, Airbus’ high-resolution Pléiades satellites were immediately tasked over the impacted region. With multiple tasking plans per day, Pléiades constellation offers an unrivaled optimization of data collection: unforeseen weather changes, as well as last-minute requests, can be taken into account for the first-class level of service.

Detailed and very fresh satellite images were collected and delivered only a few hours after the event struck the Gulf of Tehuantepec. This was thanks to the OneNow tasking option that is ideally suited to plan emergency response on the ground.

The new images were also contrasted with historic images of the areas, allowing experts to understand where private houses, public buildings or infrastructure had been damaged. The images of the city Tonala and Juchitan clearly show the destroyed official Palacio Municipal building, as well as damaged church wall.

It was the strongest earthquake in over a century.

Tonala after the event
Tonala before the event
Juchitan 09.09.2017
Juchitán after the event
Juchitán before the event

Pléiades Helped Locating Hijacked Aris 13 Oil Tanker

THE CHALLENGE

On 13 March 2017, Somali pirates hijacked the Aris 13 oil tanker along with its eight Sri-Lankan crew members, whilst transporting bunker oil from Djibouti to Mogadishu. Once on-board, the armed pirates cut off all the communication and positioning equipment including the Automatic Identification System (AIS) emitter, which regularly transmits the vessel’s identity, position and course. When the CSO Alliance (a maritime community countering maritime crime on a global scale) lost Aris 13’s AIS signal they needed immediate high-resolution imagery to identify the vessel’s location.

The high-resolution Pléiades sensor was charged, with the OneDay tasking option, to obtain high-priority satellite images within 24 hours.

SOLUTION & RESULTS

The high-resolution Pléiades sensor was charged, with the OneDay tasking option, to obtain high-priority satellite images within 24 hours. The first image was taken near the port of Alula, on the north coast of Puntland. The ship was expected there due to the European counter-piracy operation EU NAVFOR (Op Atalanta), which initially indicated that pirates had hijacked the vessel. However, it was not possible to identify Aris 13 in the image taken on the 15 March 2017. A new acquisition was tasked with OneDay to capture the north west of the Port of Abo, in which Aris 13 was visible the next day. The detailed image allowed clear identification of the tanker’s length, width, shape and technical characteristics, and the crane on the middle deck.

BENEFITS
  • Very simple and fast satellite tasking process and imagery delivery through the online GeoStore
  • Satellite images saved time and cost, whilst providing timely visibility of the remote and dangerous area
  • High-resolution imagery enabled clear remote identification
CONCLUSION

The same night that the images were delivered, the Puntland coastguards began negotiations with the pirates and the vessel was released.


Pléiades’ Emergency Response after the 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake in Ecuador

On 16 April 2016, an earthquake measuring a 7.8 magnitude struck Ecuador. Among other cities, the coastal town of Pedernales, which was in close proximity to the epicentre, was severely impacted, with several houses and buildings destroyed. Following the event’s news, Airbus’ Pléiades satellite constellation was immediately tasked to collect the most up to date information of the situation.

The OneNow tasking option, especially designed to answer emergency needs, was urgently activated to acquire Pléiades images of the situation.

The GeoStore web portal was used to instantly access satellite resources: The OneNow tasking option, especially designed to answer emergency needs, was urgently activated to acquire Pléiades images of the situation. On the same day at 16:10pm, just after the tasking plan was updated, an automatic notification confirming the planned acquisition attempt and time was sent to the client.

Only two hours after, at 18:04 pm, the satellite passed over the area of interest, with the image becoming available at 22:13 pm. It took just 4 hours and 9 minutes from image acquisition to the delivery of the fully processed image, providing the customer with visibility of the area on the very same day the order was placed. Using the provided Pléiades’ very high-resolution images, the damage was clearly visible – facilitating detailed insights due to the 50cm products and enabling the planning of an appropriate emergency response.

After, 17 April 2016
Ecuador earthquake
Before, 17 September 2015

Earthquake in Italy – Damage Assessment

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck the centre of the Italian peninsular on 24th August. The mountain village of Pescara del Tronto was almost completely destroyed and the town of Amatrice was turned into a pile of rubble in just a few seconds.

Detailed images of the area, and in particular the two towns most affected, urgently needed aid and the appropriate emergency response planning on the ground. The extra-high tasking priority from OneNow option, utilising the high-resolution Pléiades satellites, was the right solution to obtain detailed coverage quickly. The satellite was quickly programmed using GeoStore.

By comparing the captured images of the situation with a Pléiades archive image of 13th July 2015, the impact of the earthquake on buildings and the roads network was immediately visible on the image captured on 25th August 2016, the day after the disaster.

The OneNow tasking option enables information from Pléiades and SPOT6/7 satellite images to be obtained less than 24 hours after the programming request was made on GeoStore (or directly through the customer’s usual Airbus contact). To obtain most useful results, up to three forced satellite acquisitions are proposed to provide coverage of the area of interest at the soonest. If weather conditions are difficult, additional attempts are proposed, until cloud-free coverage is obtained. For the earthquake in Italy, OneNow programming was initiated for three Pléiades acquisitions on 25th, 26th and 27th August 2016. However, it was possible to already identify the extent of the damage on the first acquisition.

Pescara del Tronto, 26/08/2016
Pescara del Tronto after, 26 August 2016
Pescara del Tronto, 13/07/2015
Pescara del Tronto before, 15 July 2013
Amatrice, 26/08/2016
Amatrice after, 26 August 2016
Amatrice, 13/07/2015
Amatrice before, 13 July 2015


Fundão dam failing in Brazil – The International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ tasked Pléiades

On November the 5th 2015, the Fundão mining dam in Brazil failed for an unknown reason, causing one of the most serious ecological disasters the country has ever seen. The dam, which is located 500km north of Rio de Janeiro, was holding toxic sludge and mineral waste from a nearby iron mine. More than 60 million cubic metres of mud was spilt when the dam failed and this volume of unexpected material resulted in the failure of a second dam located below, further exasperating the issue.

Bento Rodrigues, a village located just two kilometres from the dam, was ravaged by the mudslide, killing 13 people and leaving more than 50 people injured. The toxic mudslide eventually joined the second largest river in Brazil, the Rio Doce, and then the ocean, killing thousands of fish and depriving half a million of people clean drinking water.

How do we respond?

When an unexpected disaster, such as this occurs, authorities need immediate visibility of the situation on the ground to enable an appropriate response to be planned and executed. The International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ aims at providing precisely that. It is a unique, global collective of 16 space agencies, initiated in July 1999 by the European (ESA) and French (CNES) space agencies. Airbus DS Intelligence is one of its historical partners. It responds to the Charter objectives in using satellites to rapidly collect and disseminate imagery, to provide local and national authorities with the intelligence they require to plan an effective emergency response and mitigate the humanitarian impact of a disaster.

Each member space agency has committed resources to The International Charter, giving authorised users access to a unique pool of know-how and satellites resources, which can be tasked through the Charter’s dedicated online portal, 24/7, at no cost for the user.

The Pléiades constellation was selected due to its ability to acquire and deliver imagery in near real-time – therefore offering the most suitable solution for fast and useful results.

Map

 

On the 8th of November 2015, The International Charter was triggered by INPE (the Brazilian Space Agency), on behalf of CENAD (Brazilian National Risk and Disaster Management Agency). Among several optical satellites requested by the International Charter, Airbus tasked the very high-resolution Pléiades satellite constellation, using its unique OneNow option, to retrieve images of the area surrounding the Fundão mining dam, in order to identify the extent of the disaster and help the response activity. The Pléiades constellation was selected due to its ability to acquire and deliver imagery in near real-time – therefore offering the most suitable solution for fast and useful results.

Once tasked, Pléiades faced a challenge due to heavy cloud cover over the area of interest. Thanks to OneNow option, Airbus delivers three acquisitions in the shortest timeframe and in case of difficult weather conditions, the activated satellite constellation insists in collecting the area until successful images are obtained: extra top-priority acquisitions are made to provide urgently a clear view of the situation: the first Pléiades image of the dam was thus acquired on the 11th November. 6 mapping products, based on several Pléiades images acquired in two days, were processed by CENAD and helped them to develop an appropriate response to the disaster.

 

Brazil mudflow
Brazil mudflow after, 06 November 2015
Brazil mudflow
Brazil mudflow before,14 June 2015

Earthquake Damage Assessment with the Pakistan Space Agency

THE CHALLENGE

The 2015 Hindu Kush earthquake struck South Asia on the 26th October with a 7.5 magnitude, 260km North-East of Kabul, Afghanistan. The deadly earthquake caused hundreds of deaths and heavy damage in one of the world’s most impoverished and war-torn regions. The Pakistan National Space Agency (SUPARCO), was requested to provide damage assessment maps of the area to inform emergency decisions and rescue operations. The freshest imagery, delivered in high resolution and in the shortest timeframe was needed to produce the maps.To view map click here

The deadly earthquake caused hundreds of deaths and heavy damage in one of the world’s most impoverished and war-torn regions.

Earthquake damage

The Pléiades images were delivered just two and a half hours after acquisition, due to a fully automated process.

THE SOLUTION & RESULTS

Shortly after the earthquake, SUPARCO’s team placed 5 One Tasking, OneNow emergency requests through the GeoStore online portal at 8:45pm. The Pléiades images were delivered just two and a half hours after acquisition, due to a fully automated process. The near real-time performance allowed SUPARCO’s teams to immediately start their analysis, before rapidly providing 4 detailed damage assessment maps, based on the 50cm Pléiades product. These value-added maps were distributed to all concerned disaster management agencies, providing operational teams on the ground with the intelligence to effectively manage their relief and rescue activities, and to manage the early recovery phase.
SUPARCO logo

THE BENEFITS
  • The 24/7 GeoStore web service enabled the immediate request of Pléiades images, and the rapid delivery of damage assessment maps
  • Providing detailed damage maps, field team ground operations were efficiently managed
  • Operational effectiveness was achieved due to a collaborative relationship with SUPARCO

 

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

SUPARCO teams are very grateful to deal with Airbus Defence and Space not only as a data provider but above all as a dedicated partner. Imran Iqbal, Member (SAR), SUPARCO


Capturing the Arrival of the Spanish Air Force A400M at FAMEX

On the 25th April 2017, the first new generation Airbus A400M airlifter, destined for the Spanish Air Force, arrived at Santa Lucía Air Base in Mexico, ready to be displayed at the FAMEX 2017 exhibition. The Airbus Intelligence team was tasked with capturing an image of the event from the air, using Airbus’ advanced earth orbiting satellite constellation. With only one day to secure the required imagery before the aircraft returns to its home base in Zaragoza, Spain, the Airbus team needed to act fast and task a high- resolution sensor capable of capturing the event in fine detail.

The team used One Tasking OneDay option, which enables customers to specify the exact day on which an image needs to be acquired, as well as the resolution.

To meet their objective, the team used One Tasking OneDay option, which enables customers to specify the exact day on which an image needs to be acquired, as well as the resolution. The tasking was booked using the intuitive online tasking system, GeoStore, which can be accessed by anyone with a GeoStore log in. Pléiades was identified as the best satellite for this task, due to the constellation’s high resolution 50cm-product. The constellation consists of two identical satellites, orbiting 180 degrees apart, which increases the revisit rate and capability to capture images on the daily basis.

On the event day – as soon as the first Pléiades satellite passed over Santa Lucía, the area was collected; From then on, the process is really fast: about 2 hours after collection, an acquisition notification is sent to the customer; at the same time, the image automatically goes into our production system to be delivered and ready to be used approximately 30 minutes after.


Czech Remote Sensing Specialist GISAT Relies on Airbus’ One Tasking

Marie Hakova from GISAT comments on One Tasking

“We’ve been using GeoStore for the past 2 years and the ease of both tasking new imagery and accessing archive satellite data from Airbus Defence and Space, has been highly appreciated by my clients. GeoStore is an easy way to order archived data that can be received within two hours or less – making product delivery quick and efficient. Tasking the satellites has never been easier, and now includes the option of getting feasibility studies within GeoStore and offers more programming services with Pléiades One Tasking – containing four options:

  • Pléiades OneDay
  • Pléiades OneNow
  • Pléiades OnePlan
  • Pléiades OneSeries

 

Computer programmers did an excellent job and impressed potential clients within the defence-intelligence market, in particular. This is due to the extraordinary ability to programme data one day and getting the next available image (depending on cloud cover, of course). Clients receive the data within two hours of their acquisition, thus being able to assess critical security threats immediately.”

I am personally very pleased that such service is now available. Over the years, being able to communicate users’ needs back to satellite data providers (and vice versa) confirms the Airbus Defence and Space GeoStore online database is a really great solution.

 


Wildfires in Chile – Imagery Tasking, Collection and Delivery: All on the Same Day

THE CHALLENGE

In January 2017, Chile declared the ‘state of emergency’, when the South American country experienced the worst wildfires in its history. More than 100 fires raged through central and southern Chile, spreading uncontrollably across the region, endangering lives and leading to the evacuation of thousands of local people. Strong winds made the situation even more severe – access to the latest imagery-based intelligence, detailing all potentially affected areas and the current situation on the ground, was essential.

THE SOLUTION & RESULT

To support the Chilean government’s response, Airbus immediately activated the wide swath SPOT 6/7 satellite constellation using its OneNow tasking option. In a first instance, near real-time imagery were acquired over the huge area of 233,623 km2. In a second stage the acquisition focused on some priority regions. SPOT 6/7 images enabled the identification and location of specific fires; the images were used to understand where further evacuations were necessary and to plan an effective response strategy.

The Airbus’ constellation’s daily revisit capability and high-resolution satellites were used to track damage caused over time and organise recovery operations.

Chile Fire

Following the initial acquisition, the Airbus’ constellation’s daily revisit capability and high-resolution satellites were used to track damage caused over time and organise recovery operations. OneNow tasking option takes up to three top-priority collections and rush deliveries on a daily basis and in the shortest possible timeframe. This means as soon as the satellite passes the area of interest, an image is immediately acquired and delivered. If cloud cover is still an issue after the first three attempts, Airbus’ constellation continues acquiring images of the area with the highest collection priority to provide the client with the best reactivity and freshest information. This flexibility and commitment to providing useful results helped Chile’s regional governments to plan their emergency response with the most accurate information, protecting the population and reducing the long-term environmental impact from the incident.