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Oil Spill Response using Real Time Tracking and GIS Technology

A new project taking place of the coastline of St. John’s Newfoundland aims to reshape marine oil spill response through real-time tracking and GIS technology.

Integrated Informatics Inc., headquartered in Houston,Texas, recently received funding from the Newfoundland and Labrador Innovation Council to undertake a project that will aim to reshape the way in which asset and personnel tracking are handled for Marine Oil Spill Response in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In November 2008, the Odyssey, a British-owned oil tanker, broke in two, caught fire and sank in heavy seas about 900 miles east of Newfoundland, spilling about a million barrels of oil.

The project will include the development of a new Tracking Data Management System to be deployed to Marine Emergency Response Industry users.

A spokesperson for Integrated Informatics, Sharon Janes, stated in a press release, “It is not uncommon to still see paper maps and documents heavily relied upon in Emergency Response Plans.  The problem with these resources is that they do not present information that is as complete and current as possible within an emergency situation. This is what we are excited to help change – putting this data into the hands of responders as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The Tracking Data Management System will be completed by August 2019, consisting of a suite of applications for asset and personnel tracking and a data management system to streamline the acquisition of data necessary for emergency preparedness exercises and active response within command centers.  These products will utilize Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – including rich mobile and web interfaces – as well as a robust data analytics and reporting dashboard.

Ms. Janes also stated, “By accessing asset and personnel tracking data through mobile devices and the web, first responders will be able to more efficiently interpret data, analyze trends, and plan response in real-time. Because this system rests on such a familiar platform [mobile, web], those with technical and non-technical backgrounds alike will be able to implement it into their workflows with ease.”

The planned system is one that has long been of interest within the Emergency Response and Natural Resources sectors of the Province – especially as organizations explore new, more challenging environments alongside their own endeavors to align processes and practices with innovative digital technologies.

Integrated Informatics Inc. is a consultancy for Geographic Information System implementation and development. Founded in 2002, Integrated Informatics has offices in Calgary, Alberta, Houston, Texas, and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Innovative Technology to streamlines brownfield industry projects

As reported by Martin Menachery in Arabian Oil and Gas, Over 95% of projects in the process industry in the Middle East (and comparable percentages around the world) are retrofits or expansions of existing plants that seek to increase capacity, comply with regulations, or introduce new technology to improve performance.

Moreover, often the building of a new plant is done on the brownfield site of an existing facility. For all these projects, capturing and modelling the existing context is critical to decision making and both conceptual and detailed engineering design. 3-D Software reality modelling technology is increasingly being leveraged to support these critical workflows.

In this year’s submissions for the ‘Be Inspired Awards’, there are five excellent examples using reality modelling technology in the process industry, demonstrating how this technology has now become an essential part of any brownfield or greenfield plant design project.

UCB, a global biopharmaceutical company, is using reality modelling for its iconic manufacturing plant in Belgium (which was established in 1928) to assess options and communicate ideas to help this complex and established site become carbon neutral by the year 2030.

ContextCapture was used to create an engineering-ready 3D model of the entire complex, including all the buildings, production facilities, roads, and parking areas, using both drone and terrestrial photography.

This context enabled the engineering team to quickly produce a 3D model to convey ideas and determine options. Point-cloud data from laser scans was then added to the model to enable accurate quantities to be calculated and precise measurements to be given to contractors for the priority work packages.

ABS Steel needed to modernise the fume extraction system for its large steel complex in Udine, Italy, to meet new regulations. It did not have a survey of the entire site since the complex was the result of a merger of two plants in 1988. ABS Steel awarded the contract to BM Engineering to survey the site.

It used laser scanning for inside the plant and photography for outside the plant, creating a combined engineering-ready model in MicroStation using ContextCapture and Bentley Pointools, which was read into AECOsim Building Designer and used to design the new fume extraction system. The model was then used to test the structural integrity of the aging parts of the factory.

By using a drone to capture photos of the roofs of the industrial buildings, and using ContextCapture to accurately create the 3D model, the project avoided the need to construct at least 70,000 temporary structures (guardrails, walkways, ladders, PPE, etc.) to conduct the survey work.

Flightline Geographics (FlightlineGeo) solved a problem for an owner of an ethanol plant in Kansas, United States, plant expansion of which was impeded by a lack of a drainage plan that would satisfy the local municipality. Traditional alternative methods, such as ground surveying and either ground or aerial LiDAR, were eliminated as possible solutions due to the short time frame and limited project budget involved.

A drone was able to survey this 200-acre ethanol plant site in one hour. (Image courtesy: FlightlineGeo)

It was decided to use a drone (UAV) and, once survey ground control was placed, the UAV capture of the 200-acre site was completed in a single one-hour flight. The team used ContextCapture to produce the 3D model that engineers needed to quickly calculate the results for the drainage and construction study, which was presented to municipal authorities a few days later.

Moreover, the team leveraged the same work to create a 3MX reality mesh that could then be used for visualisation within the Acute 3D viewer. It took just one week to conceive, capture, process, and deliver the project, and gain approval.

Technical Solutions International (RBI) is a world-class engineering inspection company headquartered in Durban, South Africa. RBI has deployed a solution that combines the use of unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs or drones), 3D reality modelling software (ContextCapture), a geographical information system (Bentley MAP), and engineering documentation management (ProjectWise) to manage the entire inspection process.

Its clients include petrochemical, pulp and paper, power generation, and telecommunications firms. The new process enables RBI to deliver more competitive services to its clients that speed survey time considerably and increase the value and visibility of its inspection survey data.

“UCB SA is driving a ‘smart factories’ initiative, leveraging Industry 4.0 and Bentley technology. Our objective is to reorganise production so that we are more adaptable and effective in the allocation of resources. We store our engineering data in ProjectWise for better collaboration among colleagues,” said Joseph Ciarmoli, Head of CAD engineering, UCB SA.

“Using ContextCapture for 3D modelling of our site provides geo-referencing and allocates geographical coordinates to our data. Analysing the 3D model together with the orthophoto drawings provides the official record of our land registry data, waterways, and buildings,” added Ciarmoli.

“We can also bring this 3D model into AECOsim Building Designer to support any building design changes. For proposed modifications to our production facilities, we use OpenPlant Modeler and OpenPlant Isometrics to provide precise 3D data for contractors and to automate the detection of clashes between pipes, structures, and equipment,” observed Ciarmoli.

“The interoperability of Bentley products has made it possible to optimise and significantly reduce the survey and reality modelling time, while also allowing a BIM model to be created that can easily be used by all stakeholders (structural and plant designers), who have decidedly and significantly improved the efficiency of their integrated design, allowing the implementation of the first revamping phase to be reached just three months after delivery of the BIM model,” said Marco Barberini of BM Engineering.

“Reality modelling using ContextCapture from Bentley enabled FlightlineGeo to process a large amount of data into information for the client in near real time. The project was completed ahead of time and under budget, allowing the company to acquire its expansion permit and move on with production of renewable energy,” commented Devon Humphrey, CEO, FlightlineGeo.

“Bentley’s range of products and integration between their products and our automated UAV systems gives us and our clients an added advantage against an ever-improving competitive market. The future we live in today,” said Stanley du Toit, technical and solution director, RBI Technical Solutions International.

3D design and conceptual model of the city of Coatesville’s “The Flats” brownfield redevelopment, a rugged, 30-acre former steel-mill site located 40 miles west of Philadelphia.

Arsenic found to control uranium contamination

As reported by World Nuclear News, an international team led by the University of Sheffield has discovered that the toxic element arsenic prevents uranium from an abandoned mine in the UK migrating into rivers and groundwater.  The discovery could help in the remediation of former uranium mines and other radioactively contaminated areas around the world, the scientists believe.

The team of scientists – led by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield – studied the uranium and arsenic in the topsoil at the abandoned South Terras uranium mine in Cornwall, England.

The researchers used some of the world’s brightest synchrotron X-ray microscopes – the Swiss Light Source and the USA’s National Synchrotron Light Source – to unearth what is believed to be the first example of arsenic controlling uranium migration in the environment.  These microscopes use intense X-ray beams to focus on a spot just one-millionth of a metre in diameter.

“We use synchrotron X-rays to identify and isolate the microscopic uranium particles within the soils and determine their chemical composition and mineral species,” said co-author of the study, Neil Hyatt.  “It’s like being able to find tiny uranium needles in a soil haystack with a very sensitive metal detector.”

Source: © Claire Corkhill
The abandoned South Terras mine in Cornwall where uranium was mined until 1930

According to the study – published on 14 December in Nature Materials Degradation – ore extraction processes and natural weathering of rock at the South Terras mine has led to the proliferation of other elements during degradation, particularly arsenic and beryllium, which were found in significant concentrations.  The arsenic and uranium were found to have formed the highly insoluble secondary mineral metazeunerite.

“Significantly, our data indicate that metazeunerite and metatorbernite were found to occur in solid solution, which has not been previously observed at other uranium-contaminated sites where uranyl-micas are present,” the study says.

Claire Corkhill, lead author of the study, said: “Locking up the uranium in this mineral structure means that it cannot migrate in the environment.”

The researchers concluded that this process at South Terras – which operated between 1873 and 1930, producing a total of 736 tonnes of uranium – is the result of a set of “rather unique” geological conditions.  “To identify this remediation mechanism at other sites, where arsenic and uranium are key co-contaminants, further detailed mineralogical assessments are required,” they said.  “These should be considered as an essential input to understand the ultimate environmental fate of degraded uranium ore.”

“The study has far-reaching implications, from the remediation of abandoned uranium mines across the world, to the environmental clean-up of nuclear accidents and historic nuclear weapons test sites,” according to the scientists.  “It also shows the importance of local geology on uranium behavior, which can be applied to develop efficient clean-up strategies.”

Innovations in Pipeline Design: Leak-proof technology

By Dema Mamon, M.Sc.Pl, BES and John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng.

In Canada, getting approval to construct an oil pipeline has become increasingly difficult.  Every oil pipeline incident that involves a leak and subsequent clean-up is widely covered in the media,  providing fuel for pipeline opponents that call an end to the construction of new pipelines.

Abacus Data Inc., an Ottawa-based research firm, has been tracking public opinion on the construction of new pipeline capacity and has found some interesting trends.  Since 2014, polling has shown that the negative view of building new oil pipelines has remained steady at 21 to 22% range.  However, there was a drop in the positive attitude amongst Canadians toward building new pipelines – from 58% in 2014 to 44% in 2017.  Over that three year span, a good proportion of Canadians who once viewed building new pipeline capacity with a positive attitude have shifted to a neutral view.  The neutral view on oil pipelines have grown from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2017.

There can be many theories to explain the three year shift in public opinion on new oil pipelines.  One plausible theory is that oil spills from pipelines typically make headline news, thus leaving an impression in the minds of Canadians the perhaps pipelines are not as safe as the industry states.  Oil leaks from pipelines damage the environment, are costly to clean-up, and fuel public opinion that pipelines are not safe.

One way to eliminate the perception that building new oil pipelines is bad for the environment and shift public opinion in favour of such projects is to build pipelines that don’t leak.  However, is it even possible to build leak-proof pipelines?

Are Double-Walled Pipelines the Answer?

One logical idea for building leak-proof pipelines is for them to be double-walled.  The outer wall would serve as protection from external damage.  The technology does exist to construct double-walled pipelines and they are used in certain circumstances such as when there is a large temperature difference between the liquid in the pipe and the surrounding environment.

Double-walled pipelines are not considered the cure-all by some in the industry.  Those resistant to the use of double-walled pipelines note that in some instances, it may be more cost effective to protect pipelines from the potential of external damage by burying them or placing slabs over them in higher risk areas.  Furthermore, it can be more difficult to monitor a double-walled pipeline and an outer pipe interferes with the maintenance of the inner pipe.

At the University of Calgary, researchers believe their two-walled pipeline design and monitoring system is the solution to preventing spills.  Although double-walled pipelines have been around since the 1980’s, Thiago Valentin de Oliveira, an electrical and computer-engineering master’s student, and Martin Mintchev, an engineering professor, say that their design is superior.

The U of Calgary researchers designed and constructed their prototype to consist of a typical steel inner layer with either a steel or plastic outer layer.  There is an air gap between inner and outer pipeline contains the oil that leaks from the inner pipeline leak.  The real innovation developed by the U of Calgary is the segmentation of the inter-pipe space and the inclusion of a linear wireless network linking the segments.  With the segmentation, a leak of oil from the inner pipe enters the air gap between the two pipes and is contained in a section of pipe.  Wireless pressure sensors between the two walled layers detect the pressure build up and send an alert to the pipeline control staff.

 

If commercially implemented, the U of Calgary system would allow pipeline operators with the means of quickly shutting down the pipeline when a leak was detected into the outer pipeline and crews could be dispatched to make repairs.  The oil that leaked from the inner pipe would be contained in the air gap between the two pipes and be confined to one section of the pipeline.

The U of Calgary researchers estimate that their design would result in an additional 25% in the capital cost of building pipelines.  They believe this cost could be reduced if the outer pipeline material was composite materials or plastic.

Is Advanced Monitoring the Solution?

Also in Alberta, a Calgary-based firm, HiFi Engineering, recently announced that it has developed an innovative pipeline leak detection system.  Dubbed High-Fidelity Dynamic Sensing (HDS™), the monitoring system can spot the exact location of a leak in a pipeline within seconds of it occurring.  The system continuously monitors temperature, sonic and ultrasonic acoustics, and vibration and strain.  Any anomaly in the measurements results in an alert being sent to the pipeline company control room.

Hifi Engineering’s High Fidelity Dynamic Sensing (HDS) technology is being called the ‘ears of pipeline monitoring.’

The system works utilizing fiber optic cables that run the length of the pipeline.  A laser beam is sent down the length of the optic cable and sends signals back that provide a multitude of information to the pipeline control room.

TransCanada Pipelines Corporation has already installed the HiFi HDS™ monitoring system in sections of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that runs from Canada to the U.S.  Also, Enbridge employs the technology in its new northern Alberta pipeline.

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About the Authors

Dema is a graduate of York University’s Bachelor in Environmental Studies program (2008) and the University of Toronto’s Masters of Science in Planning Programme (2010). She is currently pursuing her Canada Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s Green Associate certification. Her research interests include environmental conservation, green infrastructure, and sustainability. She can be reached at dema.mamon@gmail.com.

John Nicholson is the editor of Hazmat Management Magazine.  He has over 25 years of experience in the environmental and cleantech sectors.  He is a registered professional engineer in the Province of Ontario and has a M.Sc. in environmental engineering.  His professional experience includes time at a large engineering consulting firm, a major Canadian law firm, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.