Spanish oil company Repsol and Indra have jointly developed the world’s first water-based hydrocarbon leak early detection system, to maximise safety for the energy industry’s offshore operations.
Repsol says that the system, called HEADS (Hydrocarbon Early Automatic Detection System), is a great step forward in hydrocarbon early detection systems worldwide, and has successfully completed testing at the Repsol Industrial Complex in Tarragon, including the Casablanca platform.
HEADS uses a combination of a number of detection sensors, adding the automatic interpretation of infrared images and radar, and activating alarms without the need for human intervention. The combined use of infrared images and radar can maximise reliability, and the automation of the process allows for constant monitoring without the intervention of an operator, minimising the risk of human 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 calorific properties of the two substances.
The system has a console located in a control room where different operations are monitored, such as drilling, production, loading or safety. When HEADS detects an incident, as well as activating the alarm automatically, it also collects all the associated information, registering and analysing all the related parameters. Another important feature of HEADS is its capacity to identify ships in the vicinity using AIS (Automatic Identification System.)
The purpose of the AIS system is to allow ships to communicate their position and other relevant information, so that other ships or stations can track them and avoid collisions. Thus, if an incident is caused by a ship within its detection range, HEADS can record its registration number and monitor the event.
In addition to significantly increasing reliability of detection in any incident on the water’s surface, night or day and even in bad weather conditions such as rain or fog, HEADS has a response time of less than two minutes, minimising the impact and acting faster to resolve it.
The project was launched at the end of 2011, with a multidisciplinary team of over twenty highly-qualified experts and researchers covering the oil industry, physics, chemistry, radar, algorithms and software integration.
Repsol provided the HEADS project with its extensive knowledge of physical phenomena related to hydrocarbons and the marine environment, and its experience in crude oil exploration and production in the most demanding areas on the planet.
The company also provided all the technology of the Repsol Technology Centre, including a laboratory that can reproduce weather conditions at sea. Indra has provided its expertise on image interpretation and algorithms and its experience in the development of real time data processing, the construction and use of radar and infrared cameras and command and control centres. The multinational also has extensive experience in the development and implementation of technological solutions for the hydrocarbons industry, where it is has worldwide presence with 1,500 professionals and projects on all five continents. Both companies have registered the patent with a standard Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application, a single procedure that allows registration in over 147 countries.