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Posted on March 5th, 2024

Our Changing Landscape – 2023 Oil Explosion in Guinea

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with a time series of medium-resolution PlanetScope satellite imagery. The PlanetScope constellation dates back to 2016 and collects hundreds of millions of square kilometers of four and eight-band 3-meter imagery daily! In February, we looked at Montixelvo, Spain and the damage caused by the far-reaching wildfire there. We all know how devastating fires can be, and our next feature demonstrates that as well. For this month’s focus, we travel to Conakry, Guinea to look at the damage caused by an oil explosion that sparked a massive fire on December 18, 2023.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Conakry, Guinea on December 15, 19, 22 and 26, 2023. To start off, apologies about the mispositioned image from December 19th as when there are clouds in the data, it can result in poor automated geometric processing. But either way, this is a powerful layer stack as it literally captures the fire the day after it started. In the subsequent image from the 22nd, smoke can still be seen rising from the oil terminal, and you can even see active fires if you look at the base of the billowing smokestack; and it is not until the 26th that the smoke is gone and the damaged buildings on the ground are revealed. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2024)

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 240 microsats referred to individually as Doves. Each Dove is able to collect up to 20,000 square kilometers (sq km) per day of 3-meter (m) 4-band multispectral (i.e. blue, green, red and near-infrared [NIR]) imagery; and newly launched SuperDoves collect 8-band multispectral adding in valuable red-edge spectral data. Across the constellation, PlanetScope is archiving more than 200 million sq km of medium-resolution imagery a day, making it the go to source for daily imagery over most locations. This massive archive dates back to 2016, offering the most complete and continuous record of spatial data on the planet since the start of the constellation’s ongoing launch schedule. Collecting 3-meter multispectral imagery is the equivalent of ‘high-resolution’ multispectral data imaged by a 75-centimer (cm) satellite (as this satellite would feature 75-cm panchromatic and 3-m multispectral), making PlanetScope an extremely competitively priced option at just $2.25 per sq km. With well registered images and nearly daily collections of most locations, PlanetScope is the ideal imagery source for this current-events focused series, Our Changing Landscape.

December 2023 Oil Explosion and Fire in Conakry, Guinea

Conakry is the capital and largest city of Guinea. It’s a port city with an estimated population of 1.6 million people according to a 2014 estimate. Originally situated on Tombo Island, one of the Îles de Los, it has since spread up the neighboring Kaloum Peninsula as its population has swelled.

The massive explosion on December 18th at the main oil terminal in Conakry that ignited a fire ultimately killed at least eight people and wounded countless others, according to the BBC. Nearby houses saw their windows blown out and hundreds of residents evacuated the town. Schools were ordered shuttered by authorities.

“Eight charred bodies were brought to the morgue of the Ignace Deen hospital,” a senior official at the facility told the AFP news agency.

A few days after the blast and fire, Reuters reported that the death toll had crept up to 23 and the number of injured jumped to 241. The fire raged for hours and the thick black smoke could be seen from miles away, according to Reuters. The blaze was brought under control later the same day, but left only five of the terminal’s 18 fuel storage tanks operational.

Service stations were temporarily closed across the country after the incident, spurring hundreds of masked and hooded protestors to set up road blocks. Many made a living running motorbike taxis and so they needed fuel. “You can’t sell diesel and deprive us of petrol. Most Guineans only use petrol,” the protesters shouted, as reported by France 24. “We want to work so that we can eat and feed our families, just like the authorities. We don’t have anywhere to get money from.”

The impact of the explosion and subsequent fire will be far-reaching. The oil depot was considered to be “strategically very important” as it provided fuel to almost all of the country, according to the BBC. The oil spill also has caused extensive damage to the environment and the pollution from the black smoke has been immeasurable but notable, sources said.

“Despite the catastrophe, the air quality in the Kaloum district has shown signs of improvement. Nevertheless, the government continues to advocate the use of masks as a precautionary measure. Furthermore, strict rationing measures have been implemented as fuel distribution resumes. To ensure safety, tanker traffic, particularly from Sierra Leone, is being closely monitored and escorted,” reported BNN.

On December 27th, cooling operations at the facility were in progress and the site had been cordoned off for an in-depth investigation into the cause of the explosion. An initial survey revealed that approximately 800 buildings, mostly within a 500-meter radius of the fire’s epicenter, had been adversely affected, BNN reported.

As part of its relief efforts, the government provided food kits to 460 households and eventually would provide support to all 2,141 affected households, totaling more than 11,000 people directly impacted by the disaster, BNN stated.

If you would like to find out more about using 3-meter PlanetScope imagery for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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