ESA-backed project supports oil and gas safety by keeping an eye on the ground

Oil and gas supplies are dependent on multiple factors, including the stability of the ground wherever oil or gas is being stored or transported. In March 2021, LiveEO started assessment and development of an end-to-end solution for monitoring ground deformation for the entire value chain of the industry, based on interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) satellite data combined with artificial intelligence (AI). The aim was to help the industry ensure safety across its assets by providing an early warning system that could inform maintenance or safety actions.
Providing actionable insights

Founded in 2017, LiveEO has a background in using Earth observation (EO) data to provide a range of services to operators of large-scale infrastructure, such as railways, electricity grids and pipelines. It combines data analysis with risk analysis to create actionable insights on aspects such as vegetation management, detection of construction activity and ground deformation monitoring — all of which present challenges for reasons that include climate change and environmental factors.

With this Kick-Start activity, co-funded by ESA, LiveEO’s team used its experience in servicing pipeline customers to explore the feasibility of a holistic, end-to-end solution for ground deformation monitoring. The investigation included risk models that quantify the risk to specific assets resulting from ground deformation and how the insights could be delivered to customers and integrated into their processes to create automatic triggers.

The LiveEO team analysed the opportunities through surveys of more than 50 companies and countries, including existing clients in the pipeline industry, as well as researching the broader landscape. Initial data came from Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, which will be enriched by higher resolution StripMap and SpotLight SAR imagery from Capella Space or ICEYE satellites to investigate any anomalies that have been detected.

Sven Przywarra, the Co-CEO and co-founder of LiveEO said: “The Kick-Start activity enabled LiveEO to validate a business case in a unique setting, and also created an environment that allowed our business development team to take the right steps from a business idea to product development. The combination of guidance, support and clear goal setting from ESA was greatly appreciated, because it gave us the entrepreneurial freedom necessary for the exploration of new ideas paired with acquiring a depth of knowledge similar to a classic research project."
The increasing need for ground deformation insights

The requirement for such insights results from an increasing number of oil wells, pipelines, storage facilities and other oil and gas related infrastructure exceeding their original lifespans. This is leading to more complex maintenance for operators and increased risks that impact both the industry itself and the surrounding environment and communities. One of the major sources of risk is ground deformation due to industrial operations or natural seismic activity. Where infrastructure and assets span large areas, these risks can be very difficult to measure and dangerous trends can go undetected.

Traditional monitoring methods, such as land surveying or sensors and drones, can only give a partial picture. Satellites enable monitoring of deformation trends across entire countries with weekly update intervals — something that would be prohibitively expensive or even impossible via other means. InSAR data delivers deformation values at individual pixel levels, allowing the identification of trends over long periods of time; this can be supplemented with historical data.

The company is currently developing the AI side of the project, with the aim of completing development by the end of 2022. The plan is then to undertake a demonstration project and have a marketable subscription service ready by the end of the following year.

CISA Launches Space Systems Critical Infrastructure Working Group

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced the formation of a Space Systems Critical Infrastructure Working Group, a mix of government and industry members that will identify and develop strategies to minimize risks to space systems that support the nation’s critical infrastructure. The Working Group will operate under the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council (CIPAC) framework, bringing together space system critical infrastructure stakeholders.

The critical infrastructure on which the United States depends relies on space systems. Increasing the security and resilience of space systems is essential to supporting the American people, economy, and homeland security.

“Secure and resilient space-based assets are critical to our economy, prosperity, and our national security,” said CISA Acting Director Brandon Wales. “This cross sector working group will lay the foundation for our collective defense against the threats we face today and in the future.”

This working group will serve as an important mechanism to improve the security and resilience of commercial space systems. It will identify and offer solutions to areas that need improvement in both the government and private sectors and will develop recommendations to effectively manage risk to space based assets and critical functions.

The working group is co-chaired by Jim Platt, Chief, Strategic Defense Initiatives, CISA and John Galer, Assistant Vice President, National Security Space, Aerospace Industries Association. Current members represent government and industry organizations from the communications, critical manufacturing, defense industrial base, information technology, and transportation sectors, including leading-edge satellite and space asset infrastructure firms with expertise in emerging technology areas.

FAA Should Examine a Range of Options to Support U.S. Launch Infrastructure

Demand for commercial space launches is expected to increase. Twelve launch sites in The US held operator licenses in Aug. 2020, and 11 more were seeking licenses from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Congress asked the FAA to recommend ways to facilitate and promote investments in space transportation infrastructure. The FAA told the GAO that its response would focus on 2 existing FAA grant programs.
Launch providers support the deployment of people and payloads, such as national security and commercial satellites or research probes, into space. The majority of these providers told GAO that U.S. space transportation infrastructure—located at sites across the country—is generally sufficient for them to meet their customers' current requirements. This situation is in part a result of the launch providers' investments in launch sites, along with state and local funding. Launch providers and site operators alike seek future improvements but differ on the type and location of infrastructure required. Some launch providers said that infrastructure improvements would be required to increase launch capacity at existing busy launch sites, while a few site operators said that new infrastructure and additional launch sites would help expand the nation's overall launch capacity.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was directed by statute to make recommendations to Congress on how to facilitate and promote greater investments in space transportation infrastructure, among other things. However, FAA's initial draft report was limited because it focused only on two existing FAA programs, rather than a range of options. FAA officials stated that they did not examine other options because of limited time and resources, and that the two identified programs could be implemented quickly because FAA has administrative authority to manage them. Leading practices in infrastructure investment emphasize the importance of conducting an examination of potential approaches, which can help identify how best to support national interests; avoid overlap or duplication of federal effort; and enhance, not substitute, participation by non-federal stakeholders. An examination may also help identify alternatives to making funding available, such as increasing efficiency and capacity through technology improvements. By focusing only on these existing programs, FAA may overlook other options that better meet federal policy goals and maximize the effect of any federal investment. Although FAA has already prepared its initial report to respond to the statute, it still has opportunities, such as during subsequent mandated updates, to report separately on potential approaches.
Demand for commercial space launches is anticipated to increase in the coming years. FAA, the agency responsible for overseeing the sites where these launches occur, was directed by statute to submit a report—and update it every 2 years until December 2024—that makes recommendations on how to facilitate and promote greater investments in space transportation infrastructure.