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Multisensor Satellite Technologies for Oil Pollution Monitoring and Source Identification

Pollution by oil spills in open sea and coastal waters is a major problem due to frequent transport of goods by ships. Many ships dump oil illegally when they think nobody's watching. Monitoring of oil spills from ships is therefore a high priority task.

Detection of oil spills in SAR amplitude images has been done quite successfully for some time both by manual inspection and automatic detection algorithms (e.g., see the review by Brekke and Solberg, 2005). When the wind is moderate and relatively constant over the entire scene, the oil spills are relatively easy to detect as dark spots due to lower surface roughness than surrounding water. However, in varying wind conditions, low wind areas may appear as dark as the oil spill areas, and can, depending on their shape, be confused with oil spills. Further, local ocean currents may create surfaces that appear equally dark.

The overall objective of the SeaU project is to improve the current state-of-the art methodology for satellite based oil spill detection and to demonstrate through deliveries to existing and new users how these improvements can contribute to the development of sustainable downstream service. The improvements of the oil spill detection service will be achieved by integrating new geoinformation products from Marine Core Service or MyOcean and complementary optical images into innovative methods for oil spill detection.

In SeaU, NR's main focus will be on a frequency and polarization study and on deriving methodologies for oil spill detection using other information sources such as optical data, wind and sea current data and oil spill statistics. NR is the leader of the work package "Multisource data analysis". The SeaU project will further strengthen NR's position as a leading R&D institute on automatic oil spill detection.

NR has been pioneering automatic oil spill detection for two decades. Currently, the automatic oil spill detection algorithm is being evaluated at Kongsberg Satellite Services for inclusion in their operational oil spill monitoring service.

Possible oil slick in Radarsat-2 image, HH polarisation, 25 June 2009.

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Project period



European Commission

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(+47) 22 85 25 00
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Postal address: Norsk Regnesentral/Norwegian Computing Center, P.O. Box 114 Blindern, NO-0314 Oslo, Norway
Visit address: Norsk Regnesentral, Gaustadalleen 23a, Kristen Nygaards hus, NO-0373 Oslo.
Phone: (+47) 22 85 25 00
AddressHow to get to NR