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. 

Singapore oil spill desalination modelling

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.

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

to initial response
for critical time points
Delivery across
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.