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Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Start-ups tackle gas leak detection challenge

Wed 27 Mar 2019 by Gavin Lipsith

Start-ups tackle gas leak detection challenge
Leaks are hard to detect due to the complex environment on a gas carrier's deck

Four fledgling technology providers have presented solutions for the long-standing problem of detecting leaks in gas carrier piping as part of a shipowner-sponsored incubator programme.

The Safety Accelerator project organised by Lloyd’s Register Foundation has identified four safety challenges, with energy major and shipowner Shell sponsoring the gas leak detection challenge. At a pitch session this week, start-ups presented ideas including acoustic detection and enhanced infrared imaging.

Lloyd’s Register Safety Accelerator programme director Steve Price said: “LNG is a really important fuel but it generates new challenges. Detecting leaks in the pipelines across tankers sounds easy but the deck of a ship is a very complicated environment.”

LNG tankers have many pipes above deck from which methane can leak through flanged connections, when instruments are taken off or due to pipe failure. The difficulty in detecting leaks is often caused by weather conditions, Mr Price explained. Changeable background radiation caused by shifting light and weather makes it challenging to spot leaks using expensive and sensitive infrared cameras. Contestants cited further complexities caused by a noisy environment, reducing the effectiveness of conventional acoustic detection.

Shell is seeking solutions that can continuously monitor the entire cargo area, detecting leaks below the level detectable by crew through sight and senses alone, ideally down to leak rates of 0.4 g/hr.

Neuro Controls pitched its 360° LNG and LPG imaging systems, which uses two methods of infrared analysis to detect leaks and then triangulate them from multiple rotating devices. M Squared Lasers’ solution also relied on infrared detection but enhanced visibility by digitalising the leak using a single pixel camera.

Noiseless Acoustics has developed a camera that visualises sound frequencies that can be analysed via machine learning to detect leaks. Zol Dynamics also used acoustic detection, suggesting the positioning of multiple sensors along pipelines to continuously monitor for and locate gas leaks.

The winning company will secure a funded pilot with Shell as well as access to funding and entrepreneurial support.

Another project in the current round of challenges is sponsored by Wallenius Wihelmsen and is looking for solutions for pre-fire detection on cargo ships.

The winners are due to be announced in April, with pilot projects scheduled to start in May.

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