Airborne automatic oil leak detection - A novel approach
FlyScan Systems is a spin-off of INO, Canada’s largest applied research lab in optics-photonics. Automated airborne laser-based oil leak technology has been developed and tested with support from the US DoT (Department of Transportation) and TransCanada. Current leak detection systems for pipelines are not only unreliable in the detection of minute leaks (weeper/seepers), but often expensive to run. This is an unacceptable standard for pipeline operators and leak detection service providers. Electricore, Inc. and INO with support from TransCanada and Institut National de Recherche Scientifique (INRS) conducted a research effort aimed at the development of a transportable leak detection system (LDS) with the ability to externally locate, identify, and assess small liquid and gaseous leaks (weeper/seepers) from a safe standoff distance. Starting with the requirement of airborne operation, INO studied three different approaches for the detection of leaks along long stretches of pipeline. Infrared Differential Absorption LiDAR (IR-DiAL), UltraViolet Raman LiDAR (UV-Raman LiDAR) and UltraViolet Absorption LiDAR (UV-Absorption LiDAR) have been tested in realistic conditions. The leak detection systems proposed here, as do many others, measure concentration of hydrocarbons in the vapor phase in the air around a leak. This paper will present intermediate results using an underground leak simulated in a large sand container. Analysis of the atmospheric content above the soil and under the surface was performed during the whole of the test duration. Tests have shown that there is a strong concentration gradient in the air above a leak which indicates that a better overall detection performance should be obtained with a measurement using the air next to the ground, and that it is feasible to detection a leak of less than 1 barrel / day using this approach (less than 0.1 liter / minute).