Mapping Oilfield Brine Contaminated Sites with Mid-Spatial Resolution Remotely Sensed Data

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An environmental problem associated with petroleum production is the disposal of brine, which is produced during petroleum exploration and production. Oilfield brine, if improperly handled, transported, and disposed of, can pose a serious threat to surrounding water resources, arable lands, and plant communities. Although field checking of known oilfield brine-contaminated sites is relatively straightforward, the ability to detect and inventory brine-contaminated sites over remote and expansive areas can be time consuming and expensive. A more efficient and cost-effective method is needed to delineate brine-contaminated sites accurately. The chief aim of this project was to test a remote sensing method to map accurately and quantify contaminated oilfield brine sites in west Texas. Landsat ETM+ data of west Texas were obtained, de-correlated with a three-band dataset using principal component analysis (PCA), and classified into brine and non-brine locations using supervised classification with a maximum likelihood classification algorithm. Results show the Landsat ETM+ data is effective in quantifying previously unknown oilfield brine contaminated areas larger than 2 acres in west Texas. Overall map accuracy was 91.67%, user’s accuracy was 87.50% for brine-contaminated sites, and the kappa statistic was 82.35%. Once contaminated brine sites have been mapped via remote sensing, the spatial location and quantity of the sites can make land reclamation and restoration decisions more timely and cost-effectively compared to traditional ground surveys.


Originally published in GIScience & Remote Sensing 50(6) 2013, 623-632


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