Norbit US has been awarded a contract from the Department of Homeland Security. The assignment was defined as a consequence of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico where several glaring technological gaps in responding to oil disasters were revealed. Norbit will use its wide-band multibeam imaging echosounder to demonstrate the capabilities of the sonar's active acoustics capability to detect oil in the water volume; the sensor is designed to fit on a multitude of different platforms, both stationary and moving.
One of the issues was determining the location of subsurface plumes and making timely decisions to prevent significant ecological damages.
While some advances have been made during the Deepwater Horizon incident for tracking underwater plumes, a robust and efficient strategy for sampling the waters to determine the extent of the plume and the proper detection system to go with it is still lacking. The detecting technology to be provided by Norbit will provide data in real time (live-feed data stream) to enable a quicker response or a more efficient monitoring for a submerged plume.
This contract is US Coast Guard's first step in developing an entire mitigation system that detects and tracks submerged oil plumes in a variety of conditions.
If the government exercises phase II of the project, tests with oil will be conducted in OHMSETT's test tank.