Application of Remote Sensing and GIS for Oil and Gas Exploration and Production
Application of Remote Sensing and GIS for Oil and Gas Exploration and Production


The most established market in remote sensing is in the area of natural resources in exploration of oil, gas, and minerals. Satellite and airborne Remote Sensing technology aids in the selection and development of oil and gas exploration areas around the World as well as in the areas of oil spill mitigation and remediation. Through geological and geophysical seismic interpretation and use of orthorectified satellite images, it provides insight on the selection of areas to plan 2D or 3D seismic surveys for an exploration drilling program as well as aiding in the process of environmental and operational safety hazards to minimize the HSE risks. There is currently no other technology that matches or exceeds the capabilities of remote sensing and its necessity in the oil industry.

Argentina (LANDSAT 7) Libya (SPOT-5)
Seismic Well Recovery Satellite Image of Oil Wells in Libya
Seismic/Well Recovery Security Applications
Yemen (QuickBird) Texas USA (SPOT-5)
QuickBird Imagery of Yemen Wells Satellite Image of a Texas Oil Field
Oil Production Field Oil Production Field

QuickBird Images: © 2010 DigitalGlobe. SPOT-5 Images: © 2010 SPOT-5. All rights reserved.

Remote sensed satellite images of large exploration areas can give project managers a birds-eye view of exploration, environmental monitoring of producing fields without being present, assessment of facilities, pipeline corridor planning, emergencies and hazards which can reveal potential risks for sensitive areas. Over time these events and variables can be tracked with SIC's satellite imaging subscription program, creating a history of the project for up-to-date and future environmental analysis. This provides local government authorities and controlling agencies with ongoing information on environmental issues and project monitoring within the operational areas.

With management experience of over 40 years both on and off the field in the global oil and gas exploration, production (E&P) and engineering, construction (E&C) industries, Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC) has a unique understanding of Remote Sensing, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Geodetic requirements for accurate seismic and well coordinate databases and mapping needs. By working with reliable geospatial data, oil and gas exploration managers, geologists, geophysicists, engineers, project managers, corporate decision makers, and field personnel can make project critical decisions in a timely manner and reduce the overall exploration and development costs.


Oil and gas exploration activities for large areas require airborne magnetic or ground gravity surveys to facilitate detailed geological interpretations for subsurface features. By utilizing orthorectified high resolution satellite image data and Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) generated from Stereo Satellite or Airborne sensors, SIC delivers detailed computer visualization environments for desktop programs such as ArcGIS 9.x with Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst with DSM/DEM posting intervals from 3m to 90m.

3D ArcScene of Dutch Harbor

Dutch Harbor - ArcScene 3D Terrain Computer Environment - IKONOS and 5m DEM

The high resolution <1m Satellite imaging mosaics and 3m-5m DEMs provide operators with the appropriate planning tools for the layout of 2D and 3D seismic surveys. By selecting good source offset locations, seismic data quality can improve and by selecting good access to seismic lines, environmental impact and safety risks are minimized.

Algeria Argentina - IKONOS North Slope Alaska - IKONOS
Seismic Vibrators IKONOS Satellite Imagery of Neuquen Basin, Argentina 3D Seismic Survey Post Plot in Alaska
Seismic Vibrators - Sahara 3D Seismic Survey Post Plot 3D Seismic Survey Post Plot

After Geological field surveys, interpretation and 2D/3D Seismic data acquisition and subsurface interpretation has been completed, Well locations will be selected for promising subsurface structures.

The Imaging and 3D Terrain Models are used to identify suitable access to proposed well locations.

Satellite Imaging Corporation provides ongoing Quality Control (QC) to our customers. By having access to reliable coordinate databases and various supporting geospatial data sets, orthorectified satellite or aerial imaging products can save millions of dollars on oil and gas ventures:

Using advanced satellite imaging sensors, color balancing techniques, and the correct band combinations, we produce specialized images per client requirements, optimized for the identification of specified terrain and geological features. These features are identified with high resolution digital terrain models (DTM) acquired by stereo satellite, aerial sensors or LiDAR and viewed in 3D terrain visualization environments. The images can be optimized to enhance a wide range of geological, manmade and terrain features. For example, in jungle terrain in the Amazon basin, we have recovered old well locations and 2D seismic heliports by filtering the correct band combinations for NDVI image processing.

QuickBird Satellite Image Data at 0.62m, Acquired Over Oil Production Facility in Nigeria on 2/3/04

Natural Color Image Near Infrared (NIR) Vegetation Index Image (NDVI)

Left to right: Natural Color, Near Infrared (NIR), Vegetation Index Image (NDVI).

QuickBird 0.6m — © 2010 DigitalGlobe. All rights reserved.

Image processing services provided include Spectral analysis to support environmental monitoring.

Vegetation Landcover Index Soil Zone Index Vegetation Hue Colorized

Left to right: Vegetation Landcover Index, Soil Zone Index, Vegetation Hue Colorized.

QuickBird 0.6m/2.4m — © 2010 DigitalGlobe and EarthMap Solutions. All rights reserved.


Once satellite imagery is acquired, vector data such as culture, landcover, wells, and subsurface interpreted areas can be overlaid onto the original images. Using image transparency capabilities, Satellite Imaging Corporation creates powerful interpretation tools for mapping and GIS projects that show the "big picture." During the planning survey, these data-filled maps are invaluable to plotting the pipeline courses, identifying potential problem areas, and determining strategy for laying pipe through rural, mountainous, or environmentally harsh areas. During the 3D terrain modeling process accurate slope maps and vegetation data is vital to the process. The DTMs created by Satellite Imaging Corporation are true to life, allowing engineers to preview their plans in a virtual 3D landscape before finalizing the route of the pipeline corridor.

DEM of Tunisia, Africa

DEM — Tunisia, Africa

IKONOS - 0.8m — © 2010 GeoEye. All rights reserved.

Satellite remote sensors, such as GeoEye-1, WorldView-2, Worldview-1, QuickBird, IKONOS, SPOT-5, LANDSAT 7 +ETM and ASTER, have all been heavily used in searching for surface indicators of subsurface oil and gas, risk assessment and monitoring. Remote Sensing aids in exploration and production for oil and gas by:

Facility Site Assessment and Monitoring


Rumalia Field in Iraq (IKONOS)

Oil Production Field
(IKONOS - 0.8m — © 2010 GeoEye. All rights reserved.)

Environmental Monitoring

QuickBird 2.4m multispectral imagery allows for detection of environmental conditions that are otherwise difficult to detect.

Environmental Monitoring Environmental Monitoring

(QuickBird - 0.6m — Copyright © 2010 DigitalGlobe. All rights reserved.)

Environmental Monitoring of a Pipeline

QuickBird near-infrared bands can be used to assess damage to wetlands.

(QuickBird - 0.6m — Copyright © 2010 DigitalGlobe. All rights reserved.)

Subsurface Operations

Allow surface constraints on subsurface operations such as seismic, drilling and production to be assessed through visual interpretation within a GIS or mapping environment.

3D Seafloor Mapping 3D Seafloor Mapping

Copyright © 2010 Satellite Imaging Corporation. All rights reserved.

ArcGIS with 3D Analyst: Berat, Albania

ArcGIS Exploration and Production - Albania

Emergency Response

Before and after views of an area can be very descriptive in helping to determine both the location and extent of disasters.

Oil Spill in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon - Oil Spill

(IKONOS - 0.8m — Copyright © 2010 GeoEye. All rights reserved.)

Click on an image to enlarge it.