Detecting Oil in Water

oil detection_system

Oil and water is rarely a good mixture, at least when it comes to the natural environment. Avoidance of oil-related environmental catastrophes depends first and foremost on good practices and an abundance of caution. However, automated oil detection systems are a valuable tool to provide early warning in the event of an oil release so that actions can quickly be taken to mitigate the scope and environmental impact.

Oil in the Environment

Although natural seeps account for a significant amount of oil that makes its way into the environment, human-caused pollution is important because it puts oil into ecosystems not well-adapted to exposure, sometimes in large, point-source events. The mention of oil spills and other related contamination likely conjures up stark images of oil-soaked birds, fish and other marine wildlife, but the consequences are often even more dire and long-lasting.
Oil washing ashore in areas with fine particles such as sandy beaches, marshes, or lagoons can become mixed into sediments and persist for many years or decades.
One study of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill in the Gulf of Alaska found significant amounts of contamination still present in sediments 16 years later.
Such oil-contaminated sediments can remain ashore or be drawn out to sea where they may sink to the bottom, dissolve or become suspended in emulsions.
Aquatic wildlife is particularly susceptible to contamination at breeding sites, where killoffs of any one species can have far-reaching effects on the ecosystem as a whole.
Studies have shown developmental and physiological disorders in some species when exposed to oil during the embryonic or larval stage.
A lab study of bluefin tuna exposed in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill found heartbeat disruptions that can alter organ development and even cause heart attacks.
oil detection_system

Oil Detection System

Whether it be extraction sites, oil tanker transportation routes, near-shore refining facilities or any other location where large quantities of petroleum and petroleum products are handled, real-time oil detection systems are a useful tool to monitor the environment and provide early warning.

Since most oil is lighter than water and floats to the surface, a non-contact surface-facing sensor is often the ideal instrument for detecting a spill. This can be achieved using LDI’s ROW (Remote Optical Watcher), a cutting-edge sensor with optical fluorescence technology for detecting oil films as thin as 1 μm. The ROW can detect almost any type of oil or petroleum product, including heavy (crude, bunker fuels etc.), medium (diesel, lubricant etc.) and light fraction (kerosene, jet fuel etc.) oils.

Aluminum and stainless steel versions are available for use in almost any environment. These can be mounted on the topside of NexSens CB-Series data buoys such as the CB-950 buoy, which provides ample size and buoyancy for stable mounting of the ROW. The 46W solar panels and internal battery bank support the power requirements of the ROW, but in a relatively small footprint for ease of deployment and cost-effectiveness. It supports accessories such as the M650H solar marine light for night-time visibility.

In any CB-Series buoy, the NexSens X2-CB or X2-CBMC data logger interfaces with the ROW and transmits real-time data via radio, cellular or satellite telemetry. The logger features multiple sensor ports with waterproof connectors which facilitate system expansion with other sensor types such as weather stations, multi-parameter water quality sondes, and wave and current sensors.

For emulsions or dissolved oil, in-water fluorometric sensors like those from Turner Designs can also detect and quantify the relatively toxic aromatic hydrocarbons in crude oils or VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found in petroleum derivatives. This is contrary to the ROW which provides only presence/absence readings on the water surface. Sensors can be delivered in single-parameter instruments or multi-sensor sondes.

Data transfer to the WQData LIVE web datacenter provides options for viewing, manipulation, reporting and exporting of data, configuration of alarm notifications, data API, and more.

Contact a NexSens Applications Engineer today to discuss your oil detection application.

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