realSens Detection of Crude Oil Leaks and Implications for Risk Reduction
Proceedings Publication Date
Adrian Banica
Boyd Tolton, Adrian Banica
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In a previous paper presented at PTC, Synodon discussed a number of studies and field tests that demonstrated the ability of Synodon’s proprietary realSens™ technology to remotely detect ground-level plumes of liquid hydrocarbon vapours. The initial field tests used pentane, gasoline and condensates as the leaked products, all of which had a high percentage of their volume consist of highly volatile hydrocarbons (typically C3-C6). The next step was to perform a simulated leak test using a crude oil product. realSens™ was flown over a controlled release of synthetic crude oil produced by Suncor known in the industry as OSA. The test involved 12 over-passes over evaporated OSA plumes. In order to (1) eliminate the uncertainty/noise created by the variable evaporation rates from an open pool of hydrocarbons and (2) minimize the potential of a spill and/or clean-up, Synodon has developed an evaporator system. The first series of six passes were performed at an evaporation rate of 40 g/min. This rate was chosen as it was close to the estimated minimum detectable evaporation rate for OSA based on laboratory calibrations. The second series of six passes were performed at an evaporation rate of 60 g/min in order to demonstrate conclusively that realSens™ could detect plumes of evaporated OSA. The flight tests have shown that realSens™ can detect plumes of evaporated OSA vapours, a crude oil product with 5% volatiles by volume and has confirmed the lower sensitivity limit. These results demonstrate that realSens™ can be used to detect leaks from the majority of the world’s crude oil pipelines, most of which have >5% volatiles. This paper will describe the test setup used in the OSA test, discuss the results and present a model of how the realSens™ oil leak detection service translates into reducing the risk for oil pipeline operators.

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