Synthetic Aperture Radar Remote Sensing of Operational Platform Produced Water Releases
Oil spill detection services based on satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) frequently detect oil slicks close to platforms due to legal releases of produced water. Separating these slicks from larger releases, e.g., due to accidental leakage is challenging. The aim of this work is to investigate the SAR characteristics of produced water, including the typical appearance in HH/VV data, possible variations with oil volume, and limitations on detectability. The study is based on dual-polarization TerraSAR-X data collected with constant imaging geometry over one platform in the North Sea. Despite the low oil content (volume percentage of 0.001%–0.002% in this data set), produced water is clearly detectable, with median damping ratios around 3–9 dB. Produced water is detected here in wind speeds of 2–12 m/s, with reduced detectability above ca 9 m/s. Hourly average release volumes with an oil component as low as 0.003 m 3 are detected. The damping ratio, polarization difference, and co-polarization power ratio are investigated and show no clear correlation with released oil volume. However, some indications of trends such as increasing signal damping with oil volume should be further investigated when data over larger release volumes are available. When comparing the properties of the entire slick with the most recently released part, similar or slightly higher damping ratios were found in the full slick case.