It's no newsflash that the world is dependent on fossil fuels. While periodic offshore tanker spills and similar large magnitude spills tend to grab media attention and headlines, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Small scale land and inland waterway hydrocarbon spills result, over time, in far more damage to the environment than offshore tanker spills, but they simply fail to draw media attention.
In fact, 85% of the 29 million gallons of petroleum that pollute the North American shoreline every year derive from land-based runoff. Tanker and pipeline spills? Less than 8 percent.
But here's the thing – when an oil tank ruptures there is no way to cover it up or to overlook the problem. But because land-based runoff aggregates slowly over time, it can often go undetected and unremedied.
However, new sensor technologies can be used to prevent, detect and provide early warning and containment of all types of oil spills, including land based runoff.
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.