Predicting oil spill impacts on desalination plants

Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) operate five desalination plants that use reverse osmosis to draw seawater from Singapore Harbour and Johor Strait to produce pure drinking water for the people of Singapore. As the waterways are regularly subject to oil spills, and desalination is one of the country’s major water sources, it was critical for PUB to be able to predict the potential impacts of an oil spill on the intake water quality and make considered decisions on the plants’ operability.

Custom cloud-based oil spill modelling

To support PUB, RPS developed a custom cloud-based oil spill modelling platform which integrates forecasted wind and current data for Singapore waters. It has a simple interface that receives release time, location, oil spill type and volume data that can be easily entered by PUB staff - no oil modelling experience required.

Tailored reports based on PUB specifications are delivered within minutes of the initial request, which identify the movement of the oil spill and whether seawater intakes will be contaminated.

PUB Singapore OILMAP v02.jpg

Public Utilities Board of Singapore

Project name
Predicting the impact of an oil spill on
desalination plants

Energy: oil and gas

Current, ongoing since 2015

One platform

  • Oil spill modelling
  • Custom cloud-based system
  • Data analysis and insights
  • Mapping and spatial analysis
  • 24/7 on-call emergency response modelling

Fast, accurate information is critical

When an oil spill occurs in Singapore waters, it is vital that PUB personnel are provided with the best available information to decide whether to shut down seawater intakes to avoid costly contamination or unnecessary and costly plant shutdown. The potential risks of making the wrong decision are high; acting early is critical. This guidance is required at any time of day and night, every day of every year.

RPS’ expertise in oil spill modelling and deploying customised information systems was crucial to address PUB’s challenge. Our team deployed our world-leading oil spill modelling solution, OILMAP, on a cloud-server and developed automation tools to manage all data gathering, modelling, analysis and reporting. We configured the platform to continually gather and process operational forecasts of wind and current data generated by the Singapore-based company Hydroinformatics, with the data managed by our own Environmental Data Server (EDS) in readiness for input to the spill modelling system. The system provides a reliable 24/7 service, providing rapid insights on spill impact, and also the likely benefits of mitigation measures such as boom deployment and dispersant application.  Since its establishment, the system has been used for incidents and exercises.

Our solution

20 minutes
to initial response
3 reports
for critical time points
across 3 desalination plants

Absolute delivery

PUB’s oil spill modelling system was delivered on time, on budget and included training for PUB staff. Our system returns tailored reports which analyse exposure risks to water intakes for 3 critical time points in their operations (6, 24 and 120 hours after the event).

The system has been used by PUB for over 5 years and during this time has proved invaluable in gauging the risks and informing decisions on the ongoing operability of the seawater intakes, with considerable economic savings and avoidance of lost production. PUB has renewed the contract for ongoing maintenance of the system until at least 2024, as more reverse osmosis plants are built.

Contact us

Dr Sasha Zigic

Sasha Zigic

General Manager - Ocean Science and Technology T: +61 7 5553 6900 Email
View profile »
Scott Langtry

Scott Langtry

Principal Scientist T: +61 8 9211 1111 Email
Perth - Subiaco | Australia

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