The Increasing Usage Of LiDAR Within The Oil And Gas Industry

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It’s one of the most impressive modern-day mapping technologies and is seeing increasing usage within the oil and gas industry. It’s primarily been used to map slope and vegetation height maps, as well as elevation plans, flow accumulation models and derived slope angles. The team here at TriStone Holdings, a prominent UK oil investment company, wanted to look at this technology in a little more detail.

How Does It Work?

First, though, let’s look at how this technology actually works in practise. For as impressive as it’s applications are, the technology is actually relatively simple – at least, in the sense that it’s similar to both sonar and radar. Radar uses radio waves, sonar uses sound waves and LiDAR uses light waves. The principle behind them, however, is similar across them all. How it works is like this:

  • A rapidly firing laser (which is far more mundane than it sounds) emits strobing pulses of laser light.
  • These pulses are aimed at the ground, from which they then reflect back upwards.
  • The LiDAR sensor then picks up the reflected pulses. From the time taken for the reflected pulse to be recorded, distances can be determined.
  • By firing so many of these laser pulses at so many different points, you’re very quickly able to paint an accurate visual picture of the area being surveyed.


Many of the modern drones are fitted not only with optical cameras but thermal imaging capabilities, LiDAR cameras and other mapping technologies as well. This means that an area can be mapped exceptionally quickly and doesn’t require external light for mapping to take place. With weather conditions having a similarly negligible effect on mapping results, it’s no wonder that LiDAR has become such a staple of the mapping sector – across virtually all industries, in fact, and not just the oil and gas sector. To find out more about the use of drone technology within the oil and gas industry, read our previous blog post on the topic, here!

Landscapes Often Change!

From an exploration perspective, many oil and gas assets are located in highly inhospitable and highly changeable environments. If you’re investigating the potential for a location to serve either in a production, transportation or refining capacity, then you need to understand that location as accurately as possible. Aerial photography can be misleading, especially if you’re relying on archival, out-of-date imagery. With LiDAR, though, you’re getting as accurate a representation of the bare-earth topography as is realistically possible.

Oil Production & Slope Angles

Correlations have been shown previously between oil production and slope angle on a number of occasions. If you’re looking to find that ‘sweet-spot’ of a slope angle where production is likely to be greatest, then LiDAR surveys accurately give you that data and they do so remarkably quickly. What this mapping technology is doing more than anything else, is providing a more detailed and accurate picture of locations than ever before, and doing so whatever the conditions, whatever the environment. This versatility makes for an attractive proposition; it’s no wonder, then, that as many oil and gas majors are investing into LiDAR in the way that they are.

Environmental Applications

As beneficial as LiDAR is within the operational and exploration aspects of the oil and gas industry, it’s also incredibly useful for those unfortunate times when things do go wrong and accidents occur. It’s particularly useful in the context of oil spills and slicks. There have been several projects now in which oil slick thickness has been helped to be determined with the use of LiDAR remote sensing technology. How this works is that the LiDAR senor is carried over the water (by helicopter, drone or plane) and the laser pulses emitted by the LiDAR equipment are aimed at the seawater surrounding the slick and the slick itself. The difference between the slick surface and the seawater surface is used to determine the slick’s overall thickness.

Contact Us

LiDAR is just one of the myriad new and impressive technologies seeing use within the oil and gas industry, going alongside the likes of artificial intelligence, big data, cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies and more! So, if you’d like to find out more about our work as an oil investment company, then get in touch! Contact TriStone Holdings today on 0800 055 7079 or by emailing us at [email protected]


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