EOG’s VIIRS Satellites Confirm Drone Attacks on Russian Oil Infrastructure


EOG’s VIIRS Satellites Confirm Drone Attacks on Russian Oil Infrastructure

By Mikhail Zhizhin, Kristin Ziv, and Morgan Bazilian

February 16, 2024


With images picked up by its VIIRS Nightfire satellites, the Earth Observation Group at the Payne Institute for Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines, was able to confirm several of the recent Ukrainian drone attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in Russia that have occurred over the past several weeks.

On Thursday, another Ukrainian drone hit an oil depot in Russia’s Kursk region, 90 miles from the border, causing a fire.

The Insider, an independent Russian online newspaper based in Riga, Latvia, created a map and summary of recent reports showing that between Jan. 18, 2024 and Feb. 3, 2024, seven sites in Russia were hit. Using the VIIRS satellite imagery, EOG’s researcher Dr. Mikhail Zhizhin confirmed one reported strike in Ust-Luga on Jan. 21 and another in Volgograd on Feb. 3.

Russia has targeted Ukrainian energy infrastructure since the very beginning of their invasion. But these latest attacks by Ukraine have demonstrated their ability to strike further into enemy territory. The gas terminal at the Baltic port of Ust-Luga is 530 miles from the Ukraine border. Russia’s second largest oil refinery at Volgograd, owned by Lukoil, is about 705 miles from the border.

Drones are more and more becoming typical in warfighting globally. As an example, drone attacks by Iranian proxies have done considerable damage to Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure over the last years.  This theater is no different. The event in Ust-Luga appears to be significant, and the fire at the Volgograd refinery as a smaller-scale event.










Satellite imagery from EOG, Payne Institute for Public Policy, Dr. Mikhail Zhizhin










Satellite imagery from EOG, Payne Institute for Public Policy, Dr. Mikhail Zhizhin

VIIRS is the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite which is flown jointly by NASA and NOAA.  The VIIRS design was set by meteorologists, but other valuable products are also produced from VIIR data. EOG developed VNF in 2012 for quantifying natural gas flaring and biomass burning.  VNF is the only global fire detection product that calculates fire temperatures, source sizes and heat output using physical laws.


Mikhail Zhizhin
Research Associate, Earth Observation Group

Zhizhin Mikhail Nikolaevich, M.Sci in mathematics from the Moscow State University in 1984, Ph.D. in computational seismology and pattern recognition from the Russian Acad. Sci. in 1992. Research positions from 1987 to 2012 in geophysics, space research and nuclear physics at Russian Acad. Sci., later at NOAA and CU Boulder. Currently he is a researcher at the Earth Observation Group at Colorado School of Mines. His applied research fields evolved from high performance computing in seismology, geodynamics, terrestrial and space weather to deep learning in remote sensing. He is developing new machine learning algorithms to better understand the Nature with Big Data.

Kristin Ziv
Payne Institute Communications Associate

After receiving a Masters degree in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School, Kristin worked as a public relations professional in Chicago.  She has both agency and non-profit experience.  After raising a family, she campaigned for and was elected to public office, serving a term as a Village Trustee in Winnetka, IL, before moving to Colorado in 2019.

Morgan Bazilian
Director, Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy

Morgan Bazilian is the Director of the Payne Institute and a Professor of public policy at the Colorado School of Mines. Previously, he wD.as lead energy specialist at the World Bank. He has over two decades of experience in the energy sector and is regarded as a leading expert in international affairs, policy and investment. He is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


The mission of the Payne Institute at Colorado School of Mines is to provide world-class scientific insights, helping to inform and shape public policy on earth resources, energy, and environment. The Institute was established with an endowment from Jim and Arlene Payne, and seeks to link the strong scientific and engineering research and expertise at Mines with issues related to public policy and national security.

The Payne Institute Commentary Series offers independent insights and research on a wide range of topics related to energy, natural resources, and environmental policy. The series accommodates three categories namely: Viewpoints, Essays, and Working Papers.

For more information about the Payne Institute please visit:

or follow the Payne Institute on Twitter or LinkedIn:



DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints, or official policies of the Payne Institute or the Colorado School of Mines.