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The Wide Area Active Leak Monitoring System is an innovative monitoring solution for subsea oil and gas installations.
Hydrocarbon and CO₂ leakage in pipelines poses a hazard both to public health and to the environment. Such leaks can lead to explosive conditions that endanger workers and marine life, and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Early detection of hydrocarbon and CO₂ leaks is therefore essential to safe operations in the oil and gas processing industry.
Subsea developments rely on critical measurements for leak detection. A common method of detection is based on continual monitoring of flow rate, temperature and pressure inside the pipeline. Leaks are indicated when there is a mass imbalance between the two. However, this method is insensitive – sometimes needing thousands of barrels to leak before a threshold is crossed – and provides minimal information about the location and extent of a leak when one is detected.
The Wide Area Active Monitoring (WAAM) System from Metas is a novel, acoustic monitoring solution for the subsea environment. The WAAM System uses active SONAR to identify breaches in equipment or pipelines over a wide geographic area. A single sensing unit is capable of detecting even small gas or oil bubbles or leakage in a total vertical and horizontal subsea field of over 3 km².
If a leak is identified, the sensing unit transmits data about plume size, location and direction of travel. This enables the operator to quickly isolate and shut down the well that is feeding the damaged component.
The WAAM System has integrated machine learning to ensure that alarms are only sent for verified leakage and not random events. This allows the operator to avoid unnecessary shut-ins, and the associated deferred production. The system will also track all objects in the area of the equipment to identify risks to system operation and integrity.
Detection of hydrocarbon leaks is mandatory in the oil and gas processing industry, with specific requirements for subsea identification expanding in many markets. Massive leaks not only threaten the environment but can force an entire facility to shut down until the sources are repaired. The WAAM System provides details about a leak when it occurs, limiting damage by triggering targeted remediation measures.
To reduce the risk of costly false alarms, the system uses machine learning software to differentiate between a plume of oil leakage and a school of fish or passing underwater vehicle.
The WAAM System has worldwide potential for applications in subsea developments, particularly in areas with ageing oil and gas infrastructure.
Metas has been developing technology for monitoring marine life since 1996. The WAAM System was developed and refined in cooperation with Equinor, the largest operator on the Norwegian continental shelf. In 2019 Equinor began deployment and testing of the system in the North Sea.
Innovative CO₂ and hydrocarbon leak detection
Uses sound waves to identify breaches in the pipeline and equipment
Minimises environmental hazards and leak remediation