Technology company Cambridge Consultants are using fertility monitor technology in oil leak early warning system. It has built an oil spill detection technology platform that is capable of detecting the natural fluorescence of even tiny amounts of oil in or on water.

Crude oil is naturally fluorescent – so the company has now used its fluorescence experience in fertility monitors and pregnancy tests to build the new oil spill detection technology platform.

BP today being fined $4.5bn in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 highlights the environmental and commercial affects of oil leaks.

Currently, aircraft use long-range radar and scanners to detect fluorescence – but they are expensive and difficult to operate. Many oil companies still primarily rely on unsophisticated visual reports which are not consistently accurate. Many leaks are not detected until a slick comes to the surface and is visible to the human eye. The new technology aims to provide a compact, robust system that can be permanently installed for example along subsea pipelines.

Dr Frances Metcalfe, Associate Director, Oil and Gas, at Cambridge Consultants said: “To be effective and trusted, any detection system must detect spills early enough but be immune to false alarms – otherwise it will not be used. Our work so far shows that any reliable oil spill detection system will need to use more than one sensing method, and the best combination will depend largely on where and how it is going to be used. An oil spill ‘alarm’ system of sensors distributed across the seabed – or a series of oil platforms – is going to need a different design solution from a system for scanning a harbour or stretch of coastline from a distance to track oil spills that might be heading for the shore.

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Cambridge Consultancy