US-based energy information company Genscape has taken a James Bond approach to gathering oil inventory data, hoping that the accurate supply figures gathered through high-tech detective work will attract the business of petroleum traders.
Genscape has been flying spy helicopters over one of the USs largest oil storage hubs in Cushing, Oklahoma each week to find out how full the tanks are.
The data from the pictures, along with infrared scans for tanks with fixed instead of floating roofs, is analysed by a sophisticated computer programme back at the head office to calculate the volume of oil in storage.
Genscape also measures power transmission into Cushing, using a network of remote, wireless devices to monitor multiple points on the transmission grid.
Traditionally, traders seeking market-sensitive information about storage levels at Cushing rely on surveys conducted by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API). Traders and analysts say the accuracy of the data has always been a matter of debate because the two organizations' reports often have differed.
Genscape spies findings showed crude oil inventories at Cushing fell 2.4 million barrels last week, a much smaller decline than the 3.7 million barrel drop reported by the EIA, though bigger than the API's 1.9 million.