A Stanford University-led challenge has resulted in new mobile technologies being developed for speedy methane gas leak detection.
The technologies were developed as part of Stanford University’s Natural Gas Initiative and the Environmental Defense Fund’s Mobile Monitoring Challenge.
Ten technologies mounted on drones, trucks and airplanes were found to be promising at finding natural gas leaks more quickly and cost-effectively.
While these technologies are still under development, they were overall found to be good at detecting gas leaks pretty well.
Talking about the new technologies, Adam Brandt – associate professor and senior author of the study – said the new systems are generally effective at detecting leaks, and can act as a first line of defense.
“Gas system operators will often want to confirm leaks with conventional optical gas imaging systems, but these mobile technologies usually tell you where to look for leaks very quickly.”
According to the scientists, plane-based systems work more quickly than trucks, which are faster than drones.
Because worker-time is a large part of detection cost, speeding up detection could help oil and gas companies find more leaks quickly while spending less money.
Nine corporations and a university research team participated in the Mobile Monitoring Challenge at controlled testing facilities in Fort Collins, Colorado, and near Sacramento, California.
While all technologies proved effective at detecting leaks, eight of nine detected leaks correctly 75% of the time.
Five of nine systems detected 90% or more of the leaks, including tiny emissions of one cubic foot of gas per hour.
One startup’s drone-based system detected 100% of leaks and had no false positives. Further, it accurately identified the leaking piece of equipment – rather than just the well pad – 84% of the time.
According to the scientists, not all the technologies were found to be the same.
Some systems focused mainly on identifying leaks coming only from a cluster of equipment, while others focused on quickly finding big leaks, rather than all leaks.
Image and content: Sean Boggs-Environmental Defense Fund/Stanford News