Repsol and Indra Develop First of Its Kind Oil Leak Detection System


Spanish oil company Repsol and Indra have joined forces to create HEADS (Hydrocarbon Early Automatic Detection System), an early warning system designed to detect leaks that enables the energy industry to maximise safety in offshore operations.

This system represents a significant contribution to the further enhancement of the security of the energy company’s facilities.

The system, known as HEADS (Hydrocarbon Early and Automatic Detection System), represents a major step forward worldwide in mechanisms for the early detection of hydrocarbons, and has successfully completed the testing phase in Repsol’s Industrial Complex in Tarragona, including the Casablanca platform.

HEADS uses different detection sensors in combination with the automatic interpretation of infrared and radar images in addition to the capacity to launch alarms with no human intervention. The coordinated use of infrared and radar images guarantees a substantial increase in reliability, while the automated process enables continuous monitoring without the intervention of an operator, thereby minimizing the risk of human error. Radar detection is based on the difference in the rugosity of the water surface in the presence of a hydrocarbon. The infrared camera allows the detection of variations in temperature between the water and the hydrocarbon caused by the differences in the calorific properties of both elements.

The system has a console located in a control room which monitors the different operations such as perforation, production, load and security. When HEADS detects an incident, it automatically activates the alarm and is also able to gather all the associated information and record and analyze all the related parameters.

Another important feature of HEADS is its ability to identify nearby boats by means of the AIS (Automatic Identification System). The main purpose of the AIS is to allow ships to notify their position and other relevant data so that other ships or platforms can be aware of it and avoid possible incidents. Thus if an incident occurs caused by a craft within its radius of action, HEADS is capable of recording its “license plate” and monitoring the event.

In addition to significantly increasing the level of reliability in the detection of any type of incident that may occur on the water surface, day and night, and even in adverse climate conditions such as rain or fog, HEADS has a response time of under two minutes, which means the impact of the event can be minimized and prompt action can be taken to resolve it.

This project, which was rolled out in late 2011, was developed by a multidisciplinary team formed by over twenty top-level experts and researchers from the fields of the oil industry, physics, chemistry, radar, algorithm science and software integration.

Repsol has used its extensive knowledge in exploration and production, hydrocarbons and the marine environment in the design of the project, and has contributed all the technology of its Repsol Technology Centre (RTC), including a laboratory that reproduces weather conditions at sea.

Indra has provided its expertise on image interpretation and algorithms and its experience in the development of real time data processing, the construction and use of radar and infrared cameras and command and control centres.



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