Oil and gas sector gears up for Sentinels

Arctic ice
24 October 2013

The international body representing the oil and gas industry is promoting the use of satellite Earth observation as the industry explores new frontiers. The upcoming Sentinel suite of satellites will facilitate these new endeavours.

Satellite information can be used by the oil and gas sector for geology mapping, subsidence monitoring and emergency response actions like oil spill clean-up.

As the oil and gas industry confronts new challenges, such as moving into high latitudes and addressing more demanding legislative requirements for environmental sustainability, Earth observation is becoming increasingly important to the industry.

The challenge for the industry is now to establish good practices for the use of Earth observation to strengthen the position of this technology within the sector. Although many companies have already integrated this technology in their activities, there is a need to establish industry-wide guidelines.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill seen from space

The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers – OGP – promotes safe, responsible and sustainable operations in the industry, as well as produces guidelines for good practices for its members.

ESA and OGP began collaborating three years ago with a joint workshop to explore possibilities for increased use of satellite data within the sector. Recognising such opportunities, the OGP Geomatics committee was asked to establish a dedicated body within the organisation focused on Earth observation.

The ‘Earth Observation Subcommittee’ will deal exclusively with promoting and structuring the use of satellite and aerial remote sensing within the oil and gas sector. The initial focus will be to ensure members are fully informed about the capabilities that Earth observation can bring, and to support the implementation of industry-wide guidelines for how the information can be used.

Some of the OGP guidelines focus on operations in the Arctic, where about 13% of the world’s untapped oil resources are located.

Icebergs

Safe exploration and exploitation in this region will rely heavily on accurate and timely sea-ice and iceberg information. It is therefore of high priority that OGP establishes guidelines on how Earth observation data can support this, and ensure that members have the knowledge and capabilities to use satellite information.

The constellation of Sentinel satellites, being developed for Europe’s Copernicus programme, will play a major role in this new frontier. Although the Arctic is prone to bad weather and long periods of darkness, the radar on Sentinel-1 will provide an all-weather, day-and-night supply of imagery.

“The Sentinel satellites will be a game-changer for the industry in terms of data availability, but we need to ensure we are ready to enter into this new geo-information era,” said Earth Observation Subcommittee member Richard Hall from Statoil.

“The OGP Earth observation committee could play a major role in ensuring Sentinel information will be fully exploited by the oil and gas industry.”

The first satellite in the Sentinel series will be ready for launch next spring.

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