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Transforming the cleanup process after oil disasters

Oilfield Technology,

A consortium comprised of RESON A/S and Center for Energy Resources Engineering at The Technical University of Denmark (DTU-CERE) has received the acceptance of a project under the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation (Højteknologifonden). The project deals with the use of advanced sonar technology for the detection of oil in seawater. A reliable detection and mapping of oil in seawater will have a revolutionary effect on the recovery efficiency in the wake of an oil accident, for the benefit of the fishery, the coastal areas, and the environment in general.

Recovery rates vary greatly

Today, new oil deposits are often found in deep waters. In September, the Scottish firm Cairn Energy and Nunaoil found an oil deposit west of Greenland in depths of approximately 500 m. An oil leak in Arctic regions will most likely have even greater catastrophic consequences than is presently seen in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil find in Greenlandic waters increases the necessity for efficient methods of detecting oil in the water column in order to enable an early and effective recovery in the case of an oil spill.

There are currently no methods to efficiently map oil in the water column or on the seafloor. An anonymous representative of a leading recovery company states: ‘During the recovery of oil spills recovery rates vary greatly; in very successful operations the rate may be as high as 98%, but in more complicated scenarios with submerged oil the recovery rate is very low, with 10% typically being considered very successful. An efficient technology as the suggested sonar technology will improve the recovery rates immensely, as it addresses one of the key challenges of cleanup operations, localising the oil.’

A clearer picture

The goal of the project, to begin on 1st February 2011, is to develop an efficient method of imaging oil in the water column, enabling recovery companies to remove as much oil as possible after a leakage. During the course of the project CERE DTU Chemical Engineering will develop a model of oil contaminated seawater; based on this model RESON A/S will in collaboration with CERE DTU Informatics develop an efficient detection method, which based on sonar technology can perform a reliable detection and consequently mapping of the oil contaminated areas.

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