As demand for oil and gas increases and shallow plays mature, operators are having to look deeper and further offshore. Drilling in more capricious environments has highlighted the importance of safety measures that can quickly and accurately identify problems remotely using automated technology. Until now, however, technology has lacked the sensitivity and specificity in detecting the early onset of oil spills.
Recognizing the need for an intelligent solution that could locate even the smallest of oil spills, Repsol and Indra joined forces to develop a pioneering technology known as HEADS (Hydrocarbon Early and Automatic Detection System).The system can automatically detect hydrocarbon leaks in the sea, with a response time of under two minutes.
HEADS uses a number of detection sensors that are capable of activating alarms without the need for human intervention. Additionally, the combined use of infrared images and radar can maximize reliability while automated processes allow for constant monitoring without the intervention of a human operator, minimizing the risk of error. Radar detection is based on the difference in the roughness of the water surface when hydrocarbons are present. The infrared camera detects the variations in temperature between water and hydrocarbons, due to differences between the properties of the two substances.
The technology boasts a 90% spill detection rate, compared with an average of 65% for existing systems. The associated computer has artificial intelligence, giving it the ability to teach itself while monitoring for spills, which increases its effectiveness over time.
This automatic “hybrid” system can also operate in complete darkness making its effectiveness greater wherever it is deployed, and can detect spills of as little as ten liters. HEADS is not only conceived as an upstream application, but can also be useful for ports, harbors and installations where large volumes of hydrocarbons are stored or managed.
The challenge of managing and mitigating risks will continue to increase as offshore operators explore more remote and complex reservoirs. However, advances in technology such as HEADS are helping firms gear up to this reality and advance their efforts to tackle these challenges.