Jul 19, 2012

Offshore Industries Could Benefit from Space Technologies and Data

Estimated Article Reading Time: 4 min.

Exciting new applications using space technologies and data are now able to be translated into end-user products for the offshore industries. As many will know, space derived technologies have a history of being spun out into numerous terrestrial applications over the years. Probably best known, is the use of global positioning and navigation technologies for transportation. Other examples include anti-corrosion coatings, scratch resistant lenses, tsunami tracking and identification of ancient sites in archaeology using radar images – to name but a few.

Satellite missions flown for science and environmental purposes are yielding valuable data on parameters ranging from wind, wave, sea surface topography and ice. Multi-purpose imagery of oceans yields yet more information including variations in water colour and temperature which affect circulation and currents, sea state and measurements of changes in ocean waves and winds. For those industries operating offshore – Oil and Gas, Renewables (wind and wave energy) and Maritime, such information is essential for the purposes of forecasting, navigation, planning, development and everyday operations. However, many end users have been unaware of the relevance and availability of Earth observation (EO) imagery and measurements. Whilst at the other end of the spectrum, suppliers of potential information solutions have themselves often been unclear of the particular needs of these industries.

The Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) recently held a consultation to explore user needs. Senior industry stakeholders from the Offshore Renewables, Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Maritime Transport sectors, met with EO and marine science experts, geo-information solutions providers and systems integrators. The purpose of the meeting was to create a forum to discuss industry needs and how EO data and technologies could contribute towards providing solutions and services in these areas.

EO data is already playing a part in providing essential information services to the offshore oil and gas industry, but it is generally recognised that there is considerable untapped potential for its greater use. Some of the current applications of EO data in this industry include validation of hindcast wind, wave models and characterisation of historical geostrophic currents. Other physical oceanographic measurements are also possible and include water levels monitoring and provision of pollution information for modelling trace oil seepage. It is also used for security monitoring of platforms and vessels, as well as for iceberg tracking and ice mapping with increased detail.

The Offshore Renewables industry has a range of needs, covering information on forecasting for planning and energy fluctuations, to data services for collision avoidance with shipping. Numerous geophysical and ocean parameters measurements and information are required. These include wave and sea surface measurements, tidal stream and sea temperature. Wind speed, wave height and steepness were all identified in the consultation as areas needing better quality data.

In the Maritime industries, there is potential for EO data to provide solutions for shipping behaviour monitoring, such as for illegal fishing and piracy. It also holds promise for helping to optimise shipping routes, as part of vessel traffic management systems, thereby reducing fuel costs.

Industry representatives highlighted a requirement for user-friendly solutions which are timely and accurate. Continuity of data supply was also a concern as the future uptake of EO derived data services will be dependent on guaranteed long-term availability of the source data. A recent gap in provision of data on ocean surface winds (derived from scatterometer measurements) for instance, highlighted this problem. On the other hand, it is recognised that altimetry and SAR measurements, which are useful for sea-state measures (wave height, direction, wavelength and time period) and which have been continuously available since 1991, still lack a consolidated data product. The Committee on EO Satellites (CEOS) is proposing to address this by cooperating with the user community to support efforts aimed at building on the decade-long sea state records and making a more comprehensive use of the information in the future.

The Centre for EO Instrumentation needs to better understand the future technology needs of industry for monitoring the offshore environment from space. The consultation has already helped this understanding and will also assist end-users, data service providers and satellite operators to better understand how they can work together to develop innovative new products that meet evolving user needs. The outputs from the offshore industries consultation highlighted the challenges faced in reconciling the wealth of EO data into products and services which fit end user needs. These findings will be used to develop further recommendations and actions for the future. But in the meantime, work will continue to develop and build a network for the marine industries and the EO community so that better communication and understanding can be achieved.

Notes to Editors:
The Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) is a catalyst for the development of technologies for environmental and security monitoring from space. The CEOI was created in 2007 and is jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Technology Strategy Board, and industry. The Centre has a key aim to develop the next generation of Earth observation instrumentation through the teaming of scientists and industrialists and the funding of leading edge projects. These projects reflect the imperatives associated with monitoring of climate change and the environment – investing in clearly identified gaps in instrumentation requirements, thus maximizing impacts of UK developed technologies in European programmes. The CEOI is led by Astrium Ltd, in partnership with the University of Leicester, Science and Technology Facilities Council / Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and QinetiQ Ltd.

For further information please contact the CEOI Director Professor Mick Johnson, email: mick.johnson@astrium.eads.net. www.ceoi.ac.uk