realSens Remote Sensing of Liquid Hydrocarbon Leaks from Pipelines
realSens is an aircraft mounted gas remote sensing instrument that has been used for detecting leaks from natural gas pipelines for over 4 years. As a next step application, Synodon has completed a number of studies and field tests that demonstrated the ability of Synodon’s proprietary realSens™ technology to remotely detect ground-level plumes of vapours leaked from a liquid hydrocarbon pipeline. These studies and tests have clearly demonstrated that the existing realSens™ instrument can also be used to successfully survey oil and product pipelines for leaks. The studies consisted of detailed full atmospheric analytic modeling followed by laboratory measurements to determine the level of sensitivity of the realSens™ measurement to a pure pentane atmospheric release. The laboratory testing confirmed that realSens™ could be used to detect pentane and the measured laboratory performance agreed well with analytic modeling. The next step was to perform a simulated pipeline survey. realSens™ was flown over a controlled release of pentane. Flow rates of pentane were varied, ranging from 0.06 to 0.45 litres per minute. All pentane releases observed by realSens™ were detected. The measured aerial remote sensitivity to pentane agrees well with both the analytic modeling and laboratory measurements. While these tests were performed with pure pentane, other light end hydrocarbons such as propane, benzene, hexane, etc. will also be detected by realSens™ thereby enhancing sensitivity. To demonstrate this, a second test was completed using gasoline, a commonly available complex hydrocarbon mixture, the results of which confirmed this assumption. Assuming a 5% ‘light ends’ percentage of the total product volume (typical for oil), the equivalent detectable leak rate would be about 1 litres per minute. In a typical 100,000 bpd pipeline this would correspond to a leak equal to 10 bpd (0.01% of the pipeline flow), significantly smaller compared to the 0.5% achievable through a traditional mass-balancing leak detection system.