i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

A Quick Look at Satellite Oil Spill Monitoring

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 16, 2009

The dangers that petroleum oil spills pose to the environment and the health of marine life and humans has been well documented. This short post, a follow-up to the last one, shows how optical satellites can be used in monitoring the state of the environment and specifically, in this case, following an offshore oil spill. The images published by the NASA Earth Observatory showing the use of optical remote sensing satellites in the detection of oil spills in the Timor sea are a good example of how these earth observing satellites can be put to good use for this purpose. The images are available here and here. The use of radar remote sensing for the same purpose, as briefly mentioned in the last post, can be further seen in these images from RADARSAT and TERRASAR X

Oil Trading Nations (Source: Wikipedia)

Oil Trading Nations (Source: Wikipedia)

The number of African countries with investments in the petroleum sector is growing. Nigeria, Algeria, Libya and Angola are major oil producers while 18 African countries in all are in the oil producing league of nations. What does this imply? The responsible use and control of a nation’s resources lies in the hands of its government and people. Satellite monitoring of petroleum resources is thus an important part of the ‘toolbox’ for effective monitoring by countries that produce or even trade in oil. Most oil spills occur at the point of loading or off-loading of oil at ports and other transfer points (See the example of the Bonga deepwater oil spill below). This requires a system of laws and other regulatory mechanisms with sufficient power to monitor the uses and misuses of petroleum that could have a negative effect on the environment and human life. Technologies such as satellite imagery/remote sensing, geo-positioning equipments, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other applications have a crucial role to play in supporting these aims.

Bonga deepwater oil spill December 2011
Image: Oil slick covers 356 square miles off the coast of Nigeria. (Envisat SAR/SkyTruth).
Article by Brandon Kim on the oil spill from the Bonga deepwater facility on December 20 2011 off the coast of Nigeria.

See also Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico

One Response to “A Quick Look at Satellite Oil Spill Monitoring”

  1. the oil spill in mexico really affected the eco system around that area, it would take years to clean those mess “”

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