Methane detection crunch time

A BREAKTHROUGH technology being developed in the US could help counter one of the big criticisms of unconventional shale gas and CSG by helping better monitor and ultimately help reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

Haydn Black

The Environmental Defence Fund is sponsoring a methane detectors challenge to create portable and unmanned methane detectors that will help reduce emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

Technology being tested atop a sun-soaked hill that overlooks downtown San Antonio could conserve natural gas and save money for several companies operating in the Eagle Ford shale.

The testing is being conducted at Texas’ Southwest Research Institute, which is backed by Statoil, Anadarko, Apache Corporation, BG Group, Hess Corporation, Noble Energy, Royal Dutch Shell and Southwestern Energy.

Four prototypes designed by a range of companies and universities are being tested at a natural gas facility at the institute for the eight companies to use in the field later this year.

The testwork started in April and will be completed before the end of the month with the intentional releases of natural gas in various weather conditions.

The aim is to develop a cheap sub-$1500 device that can detect even minute amounts of gas leaking from pipes, wellheads and other sources from up to 50m away.

Three of the devices are solar powered and all are designed to be continuous detection systems that will identify leaks and allow them to be fixed early.

Twenty proposals were originally received from RAE Systems and SenseAir, the University of Colorado, Oakland University and Michigan State University, Dalian Actech and Foller & Associates and Quanta3 – for a low-cost, methane-specific laser-based system that does not require direct contact for detection.

Actech and Foller’s model uses an infrared laser-based methane detection system currently used to sense natural gas in the Chinese coal industry while Quanta3 has developed a low-cost, methane-specific laser-based system that does not require direct contact for detection.

According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, failure to reduce methane leaks has the potential to eliminate much, if not all, of the greenhouse gas advantage of natural gas over coal.

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