Maritime oil slick and problems with current detection methods.

Hydrocarbon spills from oil industries and transporting facilities are a major concern from an environmental and cost perspective. With the increasing demand for fossil fuels and the aging of existing facilities, the risk of oil pollution in the marine, aquifer, and soil is increasing. Damage to tankers and underwater facilities often results in large spills. The dominant approach to assessing these spills is to use satellite-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging combined with aerial surveillance. However, these methods may not detect small spills or perform poorly when the sea is rough. Also, they are prone to generating false positive signals in very calm conditions. Look-alike slicks from wind shadows, populated algae, and biogenic films can also lead to deterioration in their performance. Their other major drawback is the reliance on satellite location, which limits the use of real-time applications.

Non-accidental hydrocarbon discharges, which are smaller in size but contribute more to the overall marine pollution levels, require more sensitive and rapid detection systems. Spills caused by leaks from ship equipment, de-ballasting, and cleaning are the most common causes of this type of spill. Unfortunately, the most of in-situ approaches are not rapid, economical, or accurate enough to improve decision-making and minimize the spill impacts.


A cost-effective response for spills from underground storage tanks.

A pin-prick-sized hole in a storage tank can leak more than 1,500 liters of oil per year; threatening groundwater pollution. Each of our sensor nodes is capable of monitoring an underground storage tank independently. Approximately half a million underground storage tanks exist in North America for storing liquid hydrocarbons. Any leakage of gasoline, diesel, waste oil, or any other petrochemical products from these storage tanks poses a serious threat to groundwater, the environment, and public health.


The most commonly used hydrocarbon leak detectors

A wide variety of tools have been introduced into the market for detecting hydrocarbon leaks. In general, they can be divided into two groups: external methods and computational methods. The first category of sensors involves monitoring the exterior environment of oil and gas facilities for any abnormalities related to leakage. Sensors such as acoustic, fiber optic, vapor sampling, soil monitoring, and infrared thermography fall into this category. Typically, these methods are expensive, require routine calibrations, are not retrofittable, and do not provide real-time information.

Computational algorithms are employed to magnify any variations in fluid dynamics parameters in vessels and pipelines. Among the most prevalent techniques are pressure point analysis, dynamic modeling, negative pressure wave detection, and mass-volume balance. By using mounted sensors, these techniques keep track of various internal features of the pipeline, such as pressure, flow rate, and volume. Despite being sensitive, they are often subject to false alarms caused by random fluctuations in pipeline dynamics, particularly at low flow rates.