Thirty percent of the world’s hydrocarbons transport goes through the Mediterranean Sea, a semi-enclosed basin characterized by a long (80 years) water renewal cycle and a vulnerable ecosystem.
The PRIMI (PRogetto pilota Inquinamento Marino da Idrocarburi) pilot project, promoted by the Italian Space Agency in the field of oil spill monitoring, is developing a system utilizing concurrent multiplatform satellite measurements for oil slick detection. The satellite sensor suite used includes SAR and optical data (ERS, ENVISAT, COSMO/SkyMed, MODIS and MERIS) and ensures a frequent revisit time of any Mediterranean Sea area. A forecast module, that makes use of wind, waves and current data, allows to predict the fate of the detected oil spills.


The SAR subsystem

The SAR Subsystem uses a statistical approach to classify any marine area as possibly being an oil spill. It can process images from almost all SAR platforms and also estimates the wind and wave fields directly from the imagery, as well as identifying ships on the scene. A set of graphical tools and facilities are available to operators to navigate through identified oil slicks, to visualize them at full resolution, to get significant information and physical parameters related to the selected slick, to extract header data from image files.

The optical subsystem

The idea of combining wide swath optical observations with SAR monitoring arises from the necessity to overcome the SAR reduced spatial coverage of the marine area. This can now be done with MODIS and MERIS higher spatial resolution, with respect to older sensors (250-300 m vs. 1 km), which allows identification of smaller spills deriving from illicit discharge at sea.

The procedure to obtain identifiable spills in optical reflectance images involves removal of natural variability to enhance slick - clean water contrast, image segmentation/clustering and a set of criteria for the elimination of those features that look like spills (look-alikes). The final result is a classification of oil spill candidate regions by means of a score based on the above criteria.


The forecast subsystem

The forecast subsystem predicts the oil spill fate and dispersal starting from satellite-detected oil slicks and meteo-oceanographic information (surface winds from the Air Force National Meteorological Weather forecasting system, current predictions of the Mediterranean Forecasting System MFS and regional higher resolution forecasting systems for the Italian Seas). The forecast subsystem can be seen as divided into five main modules: the atmospheric forcing, the oceanographic models, the oil spill model, the satellite slick data conversion module and the internal archive.


Validation cruise

In the framework of the ASI PRIMI Project, CNR ISAC, in collaboration with the PRIMI partners, organized a validation cruise for the PRIMI oil spill monitoring and forecasting system on board the CNR R/V Urania. The cruise (6 August – 7 September 2009) took place in the Sicily Strait, an area affected by large oil tanker traffic. The cruise plan was organized in order to have the ship within the selected SAR image frames at acquisition time so that the ship could move toward the oil slick and verify it via visual and instrumental inspection.



PRIMI partners

e-GEOS, Via Cannizzaro, 71, 00156 Roma, Italy

CNR-ISAC U.O.S. Roma, Via Fosso del Cavaliere, 100, 00133 Roma, Italy

Consorzio Università del Piemonte Orientale Viale T. Michel, 11, 15121 Alessandria, Italy

INGV Via Donato Creti, 12, 40128 Bologna, Italy

ENEA, UTAPRAD-DIM, 00044 Frascati (RM), Italy

ENEA, ENEA CLIM, P.O. Box 224, 19100 La Spezia, Italy

Università di Bologna, Dip. di Ingegneria Civile, Ambientale e dei Materiali Viale Risorgimento, 2 , 40136 Bologna, Italy

INNOVA, Recinto Fiorentini 10, 75100, Matera, Italy

FlyBy S.r.l, via Puini 97, 57128 Livorno, Italy

ACS, Via della Bufalotta 378, 00139 Roma, Italy



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