Remote sensing is a powerful tool for environmental baseline studies related to oil and gas operations. Oil and gas lease blocks are frequently too large, or their terrain too difficult, to study and map from the ground in a timely, cost-effective manner. The use of remotely sensed imagery allows for rapid, inexpensive analyses. This paper reviews the basics of remote sensing technology while highlighting innovative examples of environmental projects concerning oil and gas exploration and production sites that successfully used remotely sensed data. Case studies presented span a range of approaches covering regions in Peru, Ecuador, and California. Several of these projects used remote sensing in challenging rainforest environments.
A variety of technologies—panchromatic and multispectral satellite images, aerial photography, radar data, and GPS—are employed to address different environmental assessment needs. Such needs often include assessments of lease blocks during ownership transfer, or periodic environmental monitoring of discharge zones, pipelines, well pads, and associated infrastructure. Remotely sensed data can also provide the backbone for environmental impact assessments and change detection studies.