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Orbital Insight Measures China Oil Supply With Satellite Imagery Analysis

By | September 30, 2016

      Photo: Orbital Insight

      [Via Satellite 09-30-2016] Orbital Insight, a U.S.-based geospatial analytics and software company, has announced the general availability of China Oil, the latest addition to its global oil supply monitoring tools. Using a proprietary combination of machine learning and computer vision, Orbital Insight can analyze satellite imagery to accurately estimate how much oil is being stored in China at any given time. This product joins other offerings from the company, which include retail parking lot car counts, freshwater reserves, poverty mapping, and more.

      To obtain an accurate estimate of oil supply, Orbital Insight analyzes high-resolution satellite images from DigitalGlobe and Airbus to identify oil tanks around the world. Then, the company’s algorithms track the changing shadows cast by the floating roofs of the tanks. The shadows lengthen and shrink as the roofs rise and fall with the changing oil levels. From the shadows, the company calculates the fill level of each tank across the region to measure total oil storage in China.

      Orbital Insight compared and backtested its U.S. findings, available since June, against six years of data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), closely matching the EIA’s weekly reports. Trusted data on the number of barrels stored in China is harder to find, but since the estimates are done using the same satellites and the same processing techniques, the company believes the accuracy is similar.

      In trials of the China Oil product, Orbital Insight has found oil storage tanks that were previously unknown to international organizations. Orbital Insight identified 2,100 strategic and commercial petroleum reserve tanks capable of storing 900 million barrels of oil at the end of 2014 — four times more than the 500 tanks reported in the industry standard database of tank farms,

      Orbital Insight’s most recent estimate counts approximately 600 million barrels of crude oil supply in China in May. The value of this product is that it provides an independent and unbiased measurement for oil supply that relies on satellite imagery — not third-party surveys or Chinese government data — to derive its numbers.