Ursa Space Systems plans to track oil supplies around the world

by

LOGAN, Utah — Ursa Space Systems, a geospatial data and analytics company, announced plans to offer global reports on oil storage drawn from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data.

Ursa plans to begin offering weekly reports tracking oil supplies in the Caribbean, the Middle East-North Africa region and Europe in 2017, adding reports for the Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Americas in 2018.

“We are going to be measuring a majority of the world’s oil storage to provide transparency,” Derek Edinger, Ursa co-founder and vice president for strategic partnerships, said Aug. 10 at the Small Satellite conference here. “It’s not just China that is important.”

In May, Ursa began offering customers weekly China Oil Storage reports.

“There are other places in the world in which there is no official reporting of oil inventories,” Julie Baker, Ursa co-founder and vice president of operations, told SpaceNews. “Our customers are asking for more, especially with this regional focus. With our satellite-based radar as a source, we can get reliable weekly information in cloudy areas of the world.”

Ursa Space Systems plans to use Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery to produce reports on oil storage in Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa and Europe. Credit: Ursa Space
Ursa Space Systems plans to use Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery to produce reports on oil storage in Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa and Europe. Credit: Ursa Space

Financial analysts and energy firms often struggle to find reliable sources of data on oil supplies in the Middle East and North Africa. “Oil storage gives a good indication of how much oil is being staged to be shipped out of that region,” Edinger said.

For Europe and the Americas, where reliable data is easier to obtain, customers are clamoring for the type of frequent updates Ursa will offer, Edinger said.  

Ursa is not alone in using satellites to monitor oil supplies. Orbital Insight monitors more than 20,000 oil tanks around the world.

What sets Ursa apart is its reliance on SAR data. The Earth-observation imagery and information market is dominated by companies that capture and analyze visual imagery. In contrast, Ursa relies on SAR, which gathers imagery through clouds and smog, day and night.

Both Ursa and Orbital Insight forged agreements in June with Italy’s e-Geos, the company owned by Telespazio and the Italian space agency ASI that operates four Cosmos-SkyMed SAR satellites.