In 2017, ScanEx and the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IO RAS) implemented a pilot project on satellite monitoring of the Persian Gulf. The results of the research confirmed the information on its serious oil pollution.
The Persian Gulf is constantly exposed to oil pollution: according to news agencies, the pollution of its waters is steadily increasing as a result of oil production, which is conducted in 34 fields and more than 800 wells, tanker shipments (up to 20-30 thousand tankers per year), oil leakage in pipelines, standard ship operations and ship accidents (Figures 1, 2). Experts estimate that in the Gulf waters in one way or another, an average of 100-160 thousand tons of oil and oil products per year falls, and the level of oil pollution exceeds the world average by 47 times.
To monitor the state of the water area of the bay, specialists used the technology of complex operational satellite monitoring developed by ScanEx, which makes it possible to detect oil pollution with high reliability. For monitoring, radar images (SSRIs) of satellites Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B were used, which were located, processed and analyzed on a special geoportal created on the basis of the GeoMixer web-GIS platform. The main help for the analysis and identification of detected spots were detailed navigational charts with objects of the offshore oil and gas complex and maps of the ship’s environment in the bay. If necessary, the optical data of the Terra, Aqua, Suomi NPP, Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 satellites were additionally used to verify the radar data and assess the ecological state of the marine environment.
In total, during the implementation of the project in 2017, more than 300 radars from European satellites Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B were received and analyzed, covering in part or in part the Persian Gulf (territorial waters and economic zones of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United The Arab Emirates). A total of 4905 spots of film / oil contamination were detected on 209 RLIs.
The total area of the detected pollution was 13 835 sq. M. km. The area of individual spots varied from 0.5 to 600 square meters. km. Film pollution of anthropogenic origin in the Persian Gulf was found almost everywhere (Figure 3). The vast majority of sunspots are related to oil and gas production areas, as well as to major shipping routes, some of which run along the long axis of the bay and connect large oil transshipment bases and ports. Anomalously large spills (from 240 to 780 sq. Km) were found in the Iranian sector of the Gulf (south of the Siri Island) at the end of the first decade of March 2017, when an emergency outburst occurred at an oil well in the Siri-E field (Figure 2 ). According to SkyTruth experts, 300 to 620 cubic meters of oil and oil products were then poured into the Gulf water.
A significant part of the detected marine contamination of the sea is ship spills that were produced as a result of standard ship operations: tank washings, ballast water discharges and ship wastes containing oil products (bilge water, workings, engine room water, residual oil products) or illegally. They were detected, mainly, on the main and minor navigable routes, in the areas of tanker activity, as well as in raids and anchorages (Figures 1, 3, 4, 5).
The analysis of the sea surface radar and integral maps (Figure 3) allowed not only qualitative but also quantitative information about the oil pollution of the Persian Gulf. The monitoring statistics are presented in Fig. 6 and is given in the table; their analysis shows an extremely high pollution of the Gulf in comparison with other areas of the World Ocean where oil is produced.
Based on the analysis of integrated pollution maps (Figure 3), the specialists concluded that the Persian Gulf is prone to severe oil pollution, mainly as a result of intensive oil production, oil transportation and active navigation. The current situation threatens the ecology of the Gulf, even with formal observance of global standards and requirements for environmental protection. Systematic radar survey of the water area can help the environmental authorities of the Gulf countries to monitor the Gulf daily, and can also be used as evidence base.
“At present, radar satellite monitoring may well be an effective tool for controlling the oil pollution of the Persian Gulf waters, since in the framework of environmental monitoring in the Gulf countries, satellite observations are not regularly analyzed. The analysis of the radar data collected during the monitoring made it possible to visually see the extent of pollution of one of the most unique reservoirs of the World Ocean and gave new information for understanding the essence of the problem. It is to be hoped that the data and results obtained during the monitoring will contribute to a more reliable protection of the marine environment of the Gulf from oil and oil products pollution, and based on remote sensing, GIS and AIS technologies and geoportal solutions, an effective monitoring system will finally be created, – commented on the results of the project leading research associate of the IO RAS.