Hyperspectral and Radar Airborne Imagery over Controlled Release of Oil at Sea

Sensors (Basel). 2017 Aug 2;17(8):1772. doi: 10.3390/s17081772.


Remote sensing techniques are commonly used by Oil and Gas companies to monitor hydrocarbon on the ocean surface. The interest lies not only in exploration but also in the monitoring of the maritime environment. Occurrence of natural seeps on the sea surface is a key indicator of the presence of mature source rock in the subsurface. These natural seeps, as well as the oil slicks, are commonly detected using radar sensors but the addition of optical imagery can deliver extra information such as thickness and composition of the detected oil, which is critical for both exploration purposes and efficient cleanup operations. Today, state-of-the-art approaches combine multiple data collected by optical and radar sensors embedded on-board different airborne and spaceborne platforms, to ensure wide spatial coverage and high frequency revisit time. Multi-wavelength imaging system may create a breakthrough in remote sensing applications, but it requires adapted processing techniques that need to be developed. To explore performances offered by multi-wavelength radar and optical sensors for oil slick monitoring, remote sensing data have been collected by SETHI (Système Expérimental de Télédection Hyperfréquence Imageur), the airborne system developed by ONERA (the French Aerospace Lab), during an oil spill cleanup exercise carried out in 2015 in the North Sea, Europe. The uniqueness of this dataset lies in its high spatial resolution, low noise level and quasi-simultaneous acquisitions of different part of the EM spectrum. Specific processing techniques have been developed to extract meaningful information associated with oil-covered sea surface. Analysis of this unique and rich dataset demonstrates that remote sensing imagery, collected in both optical and microwave domains, allows estimating slick surface properties such as the age of the emulsion released at sea, the spatial abundance of oil and the relative concentration of hydrocarbons remaining on the sea surface.

Keywords: SAR imagery; hyperspectral imagery; maritime pollution; multi-frequency; multi-wavelength; oil slick; oil spill; optical sensor; radar sensor; seeps.