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.

 


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.


Supporting Polio Eradication with Pléiades Satellite Imagery

THE CHALLENGE

In Nigeria – one of only three polio-endemic countries left in the world – 122 new polio cases were identified in 2012. Only prevention can help make a lasting difference. To achieve full eradication of this disease, an exhaustive vaccination programme needed to be implemented across the entire country within a very short timeframe. To reach every child, vaccination campaigns can benefit from using satellite imagery. Indeed, mapping all types of settlements using satellite imagery can help foster more efficient deployment of health professionals and ensure no village is missed.

That was the challenge undertaken by GIM, a Belgian company specialised in processing VHR imagery for urban applications, in partnership with eHealth Africa, an NGO that has their headquarters in Nigeria and works across West Africa. This mapping effort took place as part of the framework of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, with active participation from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF together with the Nigerian local government authorities.

To achieve its ambitious goal, GIM leveraged their partnership with Airbus Defence and Space to collect spatial data over 225,000 sq.km in Nigeria. The objective was to create a fresh and accurate map of all human infrastructures in order to have a comprehensive view of places and people to target. Within the project’s defined timeframe fresh imagery needed to be acquired to develop the map and implement GIM’s ambitious mission.

Polio satellite imagery
Nigeria Polio Eradication, 8 March 2014

Within the record timeframe of 30 days, an immense area of 50,000 sq.km was acquired.

SOLUTION & RESULTS

1st stage: fresh and highly detailed data

From single huts to large cities, including roads and rivers, all features had to be visible on the end-users’ map. OnePlan was identified as the most appropriate One Tasking option to acquire high-resolution images using the 50cm resolution Pléiades sensor to cover the extensive area within the project’s defined timescale. One challenge was to meet GIM’s need for extremely detailed, but also fresh data to make a most accurate assessment.

In September 2013, Pléiades satellites were tasked over the Nigerian region. Within the record timeframe of 30 days, an immense area of 50,000 sq.km was acquired. This collection was then further extended to meet GIM requirements.

 

2nd stage: An Updated map, perfectly matching GIM’s needs

 GIM leveraged its in-depth expertise in Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA) to process the orthorectified and pansharpened imagery. This data was processed in record time and the end-user, eHealth Africa, provided with a constant flow of information supporting the vast immunisation campaign.

The spatial imagery offered very high-quality visual information to establish an updated map covering an area of 100,000 sq.km depicting 500,000 buildings, 20,000 villages, 1,500 cities and many roads, tracks, lakes and rivers; contributing to not missing a single child at risk of catching polio.

 

3rd stage: Speculative tasking for optimising local interventions

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declares a country cleared of the disease only after three full years with absolutely no trace of the virus, whether among the population or in the environment.

Airbus Defence and Space therefore launched speculative acquisition over Northern Nigeria, where the virus used to be active, and Pléiades has covered 178,000 sq.km over this region. Local organisations are now able to optimise their physical interventions by using this fresh data as soon as needed and with a high standard of support.

BENEFITS
  • OnePlan increased efficiency of the vaccination planning: Employing Pléiades through OnePlan facilitated the reliable delivery of the right qualified coverage within the specified timeframe, which perfectly matching project milestones and was completed on time and on quality.
  • Systematic extraction of all human features: Pléiades 50 cm mapping product is an efficient solution to create comprehensive mapping.
  • Guaranteed of a genuine partnership: the collection plan was initiated hand in hand with GIM from the beginning in order to determine the level of priorities fully consistent with the vaccination planning and roll out. The speculative acquisition also anticipates – and guarantees immediate availability of the updated basemap whenever needed – and at a reduced cost.
APPLICABILITY

 

By contributing to map all types of settlements in record time, the use of Pléiades satellites can help create a map and thus foster a more efficient organisation of massive deployments of resources on the ground.

AT A GLANCE

THE CHALLENGE:

Optimise polio vaccination campaigns by collecting very-high-resolution images across an entire country in a short time.

SOLUTION & RESULTS:

Rapid delivery of the freshest basemap information to produce accurate maps.

BENEFITS:

Increased efficiency of the vaccination planning and great support to polio eradication.