The ultimate goal of an on-line oil leak monitoring system is to enable a remote early detection mechanism for oil leaks and spills, suitable for both freshwater and marine environments.
Various sensor designs have evolved to address the growing needs for early on-line leak monitoring. Desirable attributes include:
1) Low false detection rates of hydrocarbon layers on the water surface.
2) High sensitivity and low false negative detection.
3) Sensors that are not affected by being coated with oil or other contaminants.
4) To be durable and capable of performing under all environmental conditions, from the tropics to the artic
5) To be completely remotely and autonomously operable
6) To be capable of operating equally well at every point in the tidal range by, for example, floating on the surface.
7) To be easy to use and install
8) To be cost effective and low maintenance.
The Leakwise system, for example, consists of a floating sensor that can be anchored to any water surface. It uses a patented Electromagnetic Energy Absorption Technique. The sensor excites the upper layer of the water (and any hydrocarbon spill on it) with electromagnetic energy. Since water absorbs more electromagnetic energy than hydrocarbons, changes in the absorption rate of the water indicate the presence or buildup of a hydrocarbon layer.
The processor of the leakwise device receives the signals measured by the sensor, and not only determines whether hydrocarbon contamination exists, but also how thick the hydrocarbon layer on the water is. An alert is then sent to central control, depending on the sensitivity setting chosen by the operator, enabling spill prevention and reduction.