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.

 


Damage Assessment in an Emergency Situation

THE CHALLENGE

On 21st and 22nd November 2016, natural disaster hit the French overseas territory of New Caledonia. Several days of exceptional rainfall caused deadly flooding and two devastating landslides in the Houailou district, 235km from the capital Noumea. In just one hour, the discharge of the Néaoua river rose from tens of cubic metres per second, to 600m3 per second, causing the worst flooding in living memory and scouring or silting up nearly 10% of the surface of the agricultural plain. Around a hundred landslides combined, forming mudslides in small catchment basins, engulfing ten homes, and leaving eight people missing.

Critical information over the affected area was urgently required in order to help first responders plan emergency response on the ground. Accurate and the freshest imagery possible was also immediately needed to further understand the impact of the event and assess the damage caused.

“Thanks to Airbus Defence and Space Pléiades constellation and our local partner INSIGHT, we could access rapid post-event imagery. In addition, the resolution and precision of the Pléiades data enabled us to fine-tune our analysis. The reactivity of the teams concerned, Airbus plus INSIGHT, meant that we obtained the information we needed in less than 48 hours!” Mr. Jean-Christophe Lefeuvre, Former Head of the Conservation International office in New Caledonia Géomatique.

SOLUTIONS AND RESULTS

Relying on Airbus’ satellite constellation’s high reactivity, the Pléiades satellites were tasked with the highest priority over the town of Houailou in order to collect two 50cm products of the affected area, with a minimum cloud cover and an acquisition angle compatible with the operational needs of the project. Promise kept, the images were delivered after the tasking activation.

Airbus Defence and Space reseller in the Pacific, INSIGHT, carried out automatic processing of the Pléiades data in order to extract and understand the changes which had taken place.

In order to qualify the field data more precisely the change detection solution, using Pléiades 50cm products, uses a number of information enhancement techniques:

– A co-registration phase that allows perfect superposition of the images used.

– A change detection phase, which involves three main steps:

1) The “Magnitude Difference” which is the conventional method for change detection, taking into account the time lapse between the two images and apparent changes in vegetation.

2) The Principal Component Analysis (PCA), which is used for more detailed characterization of the changes on the ground.

3)  And the Subtractive method that enables further details to be determined. This method is, however, heavily influenced by shadows on the vegetation.

– Finally, the results were concatenated and vectorised for direct integration into the GIS of the Conservation International NGO.

All of these processing operations and quality control checks were made available to Conservation International by INSIGHT just 24 hours after Airbus Defence and Space delivered the source data.

Pascal Sawa, Mayor of Houailou said: “Thanks to the partnership with Conservation international, an independent NGO, and INSIGHT, a Caledonian service provider, the Town Hall received a certain amount of information and summary documents very rapidly. These documents analysed all the various data concerning the sector, providing extremely valuable information in terms of observation of the sequence of events and provided an accurate and reliable description of the phenomena involved. They offered numerous options for investigation directly linked to the search for those who were unaccounted for.”

BENEFITS

  • Clearer understanding of the impact of the rainfall on the ground and precise insights over the area affected by the disaster, due to accurate and reliable change detection based on Pléiades 50cm products.
  • Rapid access to critical information thanks to Pléiades unrivalled responsiveness combined with INSIGHT’s reactivity.
  • Precise information thanks to the excellent geometrical accuracy of Pléiades imagery and clearer assessment of the variability of the vegetation cover thanks to high quality Near-Infrared (NIR) products.

 

                            


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