Challenges with Inland Waterways Leak Detection

Effective technologies for detecting and recovering hydrocarbon releases in inland waterways can reduce response times and minimize impacts on the environment. These technologies also allow spill response resources to be strategically deployed, leading to higher recovery rates and reduced remediation costs.

However, there are limited opportunities to test and optimize these technologies with real hydrocarbon products in representative, controlled conditions. Ultimately, these challenges reduce the identification, development and implementation of leak detection and spill counter-measures.

Simulating Liquid Hydrocarbon Releases to Detect Submerged Oil

To address these gaps, C-FER Technologies is managing a Joint Industry Project (JIP) to develop a large-scale flume tank to simulate liquid hydrocarbon releases in flowing or still water. This is the first step to providing the information energy companies, technology developers, responders, regulators and government organizations need for effective inland leak detection.

This modular flume tank features two water channels:

  • 1 m wide by 1 m deep by 25 m long water channel that can create high-flow velocities up to 1 knot
  •  3 m wide by 2 m  deep flow channel  for testing larger technologies or for representing different field conditions

In addition, there is the ability to expand to higher flow velocities in the future.

Conceptual rendering of the flume tank

The flume tank will accommodate releases of a broad range of hydrocarbon products in both saltwater and freshwater environments. The types of hydrocarbons include crude oil and diluted bitumen.

The test setup uses the hydrocarbon storage, filtering and heating systems previously developed by C-FER to generate releases of hydrocarbons at representative pressures and temperatures of facility and transmission piping.

The flume tank will initially be used to validate and accelerate the development of existing and novel technologies for detecting submerged oil in inland and marine environments.

Detection of submerged oil is significantly more challenging and less established than methods for detecting hydrocarbons floating on the water surface. Some challenges include:

  • Lack of visibility of submerged product compared to surface oil spills
  • Formation of discrete globules during weathering which may negatively impact tracking
  • Behavior and submergence of product changes over time

Ultimately, the goal is to minimize the environmental impact of hydrocarbon releases into waterways by understanding the factors that affect the performance of various leak detection technologies.

This information will be used by pipeline operating companies to enhance their monitoring and emergency response plans.

Join the JIP

Construction of the flume tank is set for the first quarter of 2021.

Testing is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2021.

If you are interested in learning more, or joining the submerged oil leak detection JIP, please reach out to Corey Drake by completing the contact form.

C-FER is open to collaboration on other research projects that may leverage this infrastructure to improve environmental performance of industry technologies.

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2020-06-04

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