Scientists Invent Oil Spill Analysis Tool

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The digital oilfield is a tool that focuses on enhancing oil recovery through digital methods and ensures it is done efficiently, regarding all resources from economic constraints to timelines. It is most commonly known for its preventive and planning qualities, yet there is also an element of post-production technology. This is developing just as rapidly and vigorously as the part of the digital oilfield that focuses on boosting production, and an example of this is the latest tool developed by scientist from Florida International University (FIU).

When companies acquire new technology, it is easy to see why they would choose to concentrate on devices that elevate the level of production and make it more attractive for investments. However, preparing for disasters and the following damage control is just as important, if not more so – improper handling of unfortunate cases is often bigger industry news than excellent conduct of business. As a reminder of the importance, just under a month ago, on May 5th, there was an oil spill in North Dakota, USA, in a line operated by Hiland Crude LLC. Due to wrong estimates, the initial number of 480 leaked gallons is, according to the latest figures, 16,800 gallons and has made a number of headlines across the USA – source: http://www.grandforksherald.com/news/4273277-oil-pipeline-leak-volume-near-williston-increased-480-gallons-16800-gallons

Oil companies are often faced with spills and even after all the incidents in the past, there has not been a single efficient, correct way to minimise the impact and understand how to take control over it. Researchers from FUI have developed a tool specifically to this use; the answer seems to be in examining oil at a molecular level, which is an area that has not been studied extensively prior to this. As explained by one of the scientists, Paolo Benigni, himself, “The new analytical development will increase the number of molecules that can be examined six-fold, giving scientists a more detailed look into the chemical changes crude oil undergoes in a spill.” By examining these factors, a number of things related to the spilt oil can be determined: its toxicity, speed and area of travel and the time it will remain in the affected surroundings.

The tool to do this also combines the traditional method, where the crude oil is evaluated by mass, shape and size and there is no need for lengthy sample collection. This twofold application means the tool can be used for not only oil spills, but diverse contaminants in general as well – in both aquatic and land based environments.

We think this is an interesting approach to examining oil spills and their effect. There is a big market in predicting the impact of oil released into the environment and how to best react to such incidents. This problem is persistent, and evidently current solutions have not been fool proof so far. Therefore, we find this effort incredibly exciting, not only for its focus but also its creativity.

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