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.


LIMA’17 – Reliable Acquisition on the Event’s Day

The Langkawi International Maritime And Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia represents Asia’s premier maritime and aerospace event. Airbus was one of the key exhibitors at the exhibition, which ran from the 21st until the 25th of March 2017. To promote Airbus’ attendance, it tasked its OneDay service to capture and deliver high-resolution images of the event location during the course of the exhibition. Situated close to the equator, Malaysia’s cloud coverage can make the acquisition of crisp satellite images a challenge. However, due to OneDay’s unique nature, imagery acquisition has now become risk-free. Customers are able to postpone or confirm a booked acquisition up to 12 hours before the acquisition date due to any change in requirement or if a weather report suggests the results will be compromised by cloud coverage.


Supporting Nearshore Pipeline Construction with Satellite Imagery

THE CHALLENGE

Saipem S.p.A, an Italian oil and gas industry contractor, subsidiary of Italian energy company ENI, had planned to design and construct pipelines in the Caspian Sea. However, this type of work entails intensive dredging, which involves moving underwater sediments from one place to another and thus disturbing water quality.

Traditional water quality monitoring techniques, such as sampling at sea and laboratory analysis, present logistical and operational inconveniences as well as long processing times. This is often incompatible with a company’s need to obtain real-time information. In addition, field observations and measurements, while frequent, are not able to provide a complete and exhaustive spatial answer to describe all the phenomena in progress. Solutions to monitor water quality and compliance – also known as sea turbidity – rely more and more on satellite imagery.

Planetek logo

Planetek Italia, a company specialising in geospatial value-added products, deliver water quality reports to Saipem. They contacted Airbus Defence and Space as they needed to get very detailed information, at random and unforeseeable times, in the shortest timeframe.

 

Sergio Samarelli, Planetek CTO

“We are proud to be able to offer near-real-time services thanks to the fast and reliable tasking service offered by the Airbus Defence and Space satellite constellation. The availability of these capabilities really boosts the opportunities for value-added service providers to offer real solutions to customer needs.”

SOLUTION & RESULTS

Airbus Defence and Space had to guarantee daily and flexible access to imagery. Pléiades OneDay tasking option was the ideal and cost-effective solution. Planetek placed 5 OneDay orders through GeoStore. Thanks to a fully automatic process, all the images were delivered in just 2.5 hours after acquisition!

Planetek quickly extracted the information needed from the imagery and delivered an analysis report to the end-user, Saipem. The result was a quantitative and spatial definition of the dispersion of sediments during dredging operations. Saipem was thus able to receive near-real-time overviews of the dredging impact during the execution of their work.

The satellite imagery based information was used by the company to report their compliance with environmental norms to authorities as well as to increase their efficiency in monitoring all ongoing events during the execution of works.

BENEFITS
  • Efficient Time Management: 24/7 OneDay Tasking service availability through GeoStore, Pléiades guaranteed acquisitions and rapid deliveries.
  • High Accuracy: Saipem benefited from reliable water quality monitoring thanks to Pléiades high resolution, enabling detailed dredging activity assessment by Planetek.
  • Cost-Efficient: OneDay tasking option enabling access to information without sending people on site.

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Organisation Involved

Planetek Italia is a company specialised in geo-informatics, Space solutions, and Earth Observation. They provide solutions to exploit the value of geospatial data through all phases of data life cycles, from acquisition, storage and management to analysis and sharing. They operate in many application areas ranging from environmental and land monitoring to Open Government and smart cities, including defence and security, as well as scientific missions and planetary exploration.