Online Environmental Surveillance

Published Aug 1, 2004
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Preventive measures have been taken worldwide to reduce the more than 500,000 tons of oil spilled into the marine environment every year, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is increasingly declaring sensitive sea areas as “Special Areas”, including the North Sea, where allowable discharges from vessels and offshore structures are reduced from 40 to 15 part per million.

The present strategy to deal with the oil pollution within “Special Areas” and the sporadic airborne surveillance used to enforce the strategy are proving inadequate. Because the technology required to implement and enforce the pro-grammes efficiently is not present-ly available, OSIS has sought to develop, manufacture and com-mercialise online environmental surveillance systems for vessels and offshore structures.

During the last 3 years, OSIS has designed and manufactured the first sensor with the ability to mon-itor oil spills from offshore struc-tures. The sensor has completed the first part of a comprehensive test programme, including onshore, calibration and offshore tests. The onshore tests programme was completed in fourth quarter 2003 and the calibration test pro-gramme was completed in first quarter 2004. The offshore test programme commenced in April 2004 and will continue through-out the year. The test results thus far have been promising. Apart from verifying the overall concept, technological sustainability has been confirmed.

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OSIS is presently having a test installation operating onboard an offshore structure in the North Sea area.

Together with the environmental authorities, OSIS is contemplating a second development project – OSIS “Marine Transport” – specif-ically targeted at monitoring emis-sions from vessels. The project will start in December 2004 and will be based on the results obtained through the completion of the first project.

Environmental Challenge
In the “Special Areas”, including the North Sea, it is doubtful whether all oil spills are correctly reported. This has been evident during several occasions, where disparity between the amount measured by airborne surveillance and the amount reported from the offshore structure often results in cleanup actions being based on incorrect or non-objective infor-mation, resulting in inefficient action.

The vast number of offshore struc-tures operating within the “Special Areas” combined with the lack of efficient surveillance technology has so far caused exemption from the MARPOL 73/78 annex 1 direc-tive, so the OSIS sensor project will help to bring offshore structures in line with what is already imple-mented on vessels. Recent estimates state that one-third of all oil pollution of the world’s oceans is caused by “marine transportation” activities, often as a result of routine tanker operations and from the discharge of oily wastes. To combat the prob-lem, increasing numbers of national, regional and interna-tional protocols have been or are being deployed by authorities.

Completing the OSIS “Marine Transport” project will make possi-ble support of the general objec-tives of EU contributing to the implementation, updating and development of Community envi-ronment policy and legislation. Particularly, the project comple-tion will contribute to the objec-tives set out under the 6th Environment Action Program.

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An assessment of the aerial surveillance flight records in the Baltic Sea and North Sea area in 2002 shows an alarmingly high number of illegal oil spills and discharges.

The oil primarily originates from vessels, despite the fact that the Baltic Sea and North Sea are desig-nated as “Special Areas”. According to HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, Helsinki Commission), a single 24-hour aerial surveillance flight in 2002 observed 26 illegal discharges in the Baltic Sea suggesting that there could be as many as 10,000 illegal oil discharges in the Baltic Sea area every year.

Technical Solution
Applications for offshore structures and vessels require different tech-nical solutions. Although the basic sensor technology is similar in both applications, the mechanical structure and transmission system developed will be different. Both applications are based on electro-magnetic sensors with different frequency bands able to identify submissions from 0.02 to 2.0 millimetres of oil on a water surface. The measurement capability corresponds to governmental requirements and the final result will:

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  • Provide an objective measure of the amount of oil spilled or discharged into the marine environment.
  • Enhance the information for decision making concerning corrective action.
  • Enhance the opportunities for efficient cleanup procedures.
  • Support implementation of preventive legislation.
  • Support general procedures for operators.
Within the system, data is trans-mitted to the onshore central serv-er (CS) from sensor packs placed on different offshore structures or vessels around the world. In the CS, the automated decision soft-ware transfers the sensor data into oil spill information and presents the result. The transmission system facilitates wireless Ethernet between sensor packs and master unit (MU) and satellite link between the MU and CS. The MU enables up to 16 sensor packs to communicate through a single satellite connection. The scalability of the system is unlimited as the system can survey an unlimited number of offshore structures and vessels simultaneously enabling an unlimited number of worldwide users to access the database after registration in the OSIS CS.

OSIS differentiates two system configurations: a comprehensive system including complete sensor pack, transmission system and presentation software as well as additional sensor pack’s enabling expansion of the surveillance area within reach of a satellite link already established.

In order to mount equipment onboard offshore structures and vessels, approval of the equipment is required by marine classification societies. This secures compliance with marine regulations and makes the integration with stan-dard onboard equipment possible. So far, Det Norske Veritas (DNV) is used as certifying body.

Application for OffshoreStructures
The application for offshore stucutres is designed to provide round the clock surveillance and will provide target groups access to the illustrated information screens via a traditional web interface. The end user is presented with relevant information about the offshore structure, sensor measurements and, in case of an oil spill, the esti-mated contamination area and the amount spilled. Additional poten-tial benefits can be summarised as

  • Operational insight
    The OSIS sensor system will ensure information on all operational spills and discharges, providing the exact data to be reported. Pollution from external sources drifting into OSIS sensor integration to the UAIS transponder system the monitored area, including pollution from vessels, are identified and documented.
  • Faster clean up procedures
    The OSIS sensor system will provide the means to perform faster clean up procedures as the spill is monitored in real time and spill data is provided instantly.
  • Insurance differentiation
    The OSIS sensor system will enable insurance differentiation for off-shore structures with installed surveillance
  • Access to exploration activity in sensitive marine areas
    In the future, operators with a positive environmental profile are more likely to be approved for exploration activities in sensitive marine areas.
Application for Vessels
For vessels, this application contin-uously monitors individual vessels for oil spills and provides the authorities with objective data to link the oil spill to the polluter. Additionally, the sensor can be used as a forward looking instru-ment during cleanup operations. The OSIS vessel application is designed to interface with the Universal Automatic Identification System (UAIS) that, in accordance with IMO Resolution MSC.74 (69) annex 3, is mandatory by the end of 2004 on all vessels above 300 GRT. Interfacing the OSIS sensor system to the UAIS transponder facilitates the integration of envi-ronmental data with static-, dynamic- and voyage-related information for each individual vessel. This provides unambiguous identification of the polluter.

When no oil spill is observed – that is, 95 to 99% of the time – transmission of the OSIS data is integrated into the UAIS transmis-sion system and the information screens will indicate that no oil spill exists and all sensors are cali-brated. When the UAIS informa-tion screens indicate that an oil spill has been observed, data is transferred onshore through a sep-arate satellite link to the CS, giving decision makers direct access to data concerning contaminated area and volume.

Low Cost, High Value
The costs associated with oil spill identification sensors are linked to development of the oil spill sen-sors. Due to the high degree of automation, day-to-day operations will be inexpensive but provide 24-hour surveillance with a high degree of reliability irrespective of weather and daylight. Promising results from the OSIS sensor sys-tem for offshore structures indicate that the technology can be used to effectively monitoring illegal dis-charges and spills from both off-shore structures and vessels. Installing sensors directly on off-shore structures and vessels pro-vides a solution precisely focused on the problem and provide local governments with the means to implement national, regional and international protocols effectively. The regulatory enforcement will be strongly improved and enable the expensive aerial surveillance to be concentrated on oil spills being reported from the OSIS system. systems, resulting in lower insurance costs.

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