Detecting oil on water using microwave radar



Rutter Inc., St. Johns, Canada


It is well understood that a key driver to minimizing oil spill damage in the marine environment is early detection and clean-up. Microwave radar has been proven effective in the detection of oil on water. Detection is accomplished by distinguishing a reduced signal return where the wind-generated capillary waves on the ocean’s surface are suppressed due to the presence of oil.

Based upon Rutter’s core sigma S6 radar processing and display technology, the sigma S6 Oil Spill Detection (OSD) system can identify potential oil on water slicks in poor visibility across a wide range of sea and weather conditions. The system is capable of performing a real-time moving window process over a large number of consecutive radar scans with full vessel motion compensation. This level of processing results in a well-defined area of the oil slick where there is no or very little sea clutter return. During vessel clean-up operations requiring slick delineation, the ability to detect oil slicks while moving provides significant benefit.

Rutter’s OSD radar automatically detects oil slicks over a large area of operation, and is capable of auto-outlining suspected oil spills, alerting the operator with visual and audible alarms, automatically tracking oil slicks, predicting their trajectories and area of coverage. It provides continuous real-time local surveillance and can be installed either on-board a vessel or on a fixed platform.

Recently, Rutter teamed with Aptomar AS, a Norwegian company that supplies infrared camera technology that measures relative thickness of an oil slick. The two companies have undertaken significant development work to deliver an integrated Oil Spill Detection and Management System. The system offers an optimal solution for oil spill detection, confirmation and management during clean-up operations.

To date Rutter is one of only two companies in the world having met the Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies (NOFO) compliance standard for oil spill radar detection requirements. Rutter’s system has outperformed all other systems on the market.

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