Satellites Discover Natural Oil Sources in Black Sea, Georgia

Within the frames of the Black Sea oil pollutions monitoring program natural oil sources were detected in south-eastern part out at sea of the town of Poti, Georgia. The source was detected based on analysis of multi-temporal radar satellite images by the scientists of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology together with the specialists of the ScanEx Research & Development Center.

Analysis of radar images enabled to detect the connection between the oil seeps, visible on the sea surface and the process of formation and migration of hydrocarbons in sedimentary complex of the south-eastern part of the Black Sea. Based on the analysis of spots, detected on 16 multi-temporal radar images, acquired over the 1993 to 2011 period, the GeoMixer web-mapping application helped defining the location of the source on the sea bottom. The coordinated of the source are 41є58’59”N and 41є07’30”E at the depth of 1050 meters and it erupts once in 0.3-5 hours. First reliable monitoring of this spring from space using radar was made in December 1993.

Such a natural infiltration of oil is one of the typical phenomena in this part of the Black Sea. Oil seepage volumes assessments can be made by measuring the acreage of oil slicks on radar images and based on simple physical considerations, connecting the thickness of oil slick with its color that varies from iridescent on the place of emergence to silver-grey on the spot edges, – explained Senior Researcher of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology Andrei Ivanov.

According to estimates of the institute specialists the oil-in-place relief in south-eastern part of the Black Sea only from this source (if recurrent discharge trend remains) may constitute on average from 1 to 8 tons of oil per day or 400 to 3000 tons per year. The maximum possible estimates of volumes of natural oils seepage in this place according to space radar data may reach 7000 tons of oil per year.

Detailed biometric data showed that the bottom in this location has a positive topographic form – the mountain of Pechori that, apparently, is the source of these oil blowouts. Data of independent geophysical studies, carried out by IFM-GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany) together with Russian specialists, confirm that too. In addition, radar images of this area detected a number of smaller oil slicks associated with secondary level phenomena that indicate the presence of a number of other natural oil sources. They are also of some interest and require further investigation.

The use of multi-temporal radar images enables to considerably increase the probability of natural oil sources detection at seas. For analysis and research of natural oil seeps, detected using radar images, the method developed at the Institute of Oceanology was applied. In particular, the geoinformation approach was used. Such an approach was also used to study and event to detect natural oil sources in the Caspian Sea, on the north-eastern shelf of the Sakhalin Island and in Lake Baikal.

Radar images can be applied for operational monitoring of different objects on the sea bottom, periodically emitting oil or oil derivatives, for example damaged or broken oil pipelines, sunken ships, mothballed wells, etc. – notes ScanEx Deputy General Director Alexei Kucheiko.

Source: ScanEx, June 9, 2011;

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