Methane Detectors Challenge Q&A

Our answers to questions posed by you, the innovators

1) How do the EDF and ARPA-E projects on methane sensing relate to each other?

2) Can you provide more information on the testing protocols? For example: (1) will corrosive compounds be used during testing (2) what other gases will be used (3) is it in a chamber, some sort of tubing, across a room?

3) Section 1.4 of the Methane Detectors Challenge RFP states that first round testing is primarily focused on the sensor and that there is a preference for technologies that can be sold for roughly $1,000 or less per well pad when produced at scale. Is the $1,000 cost target for the sensor, sensor system, installed sensor system, or installed sensor system with a solar power array and battery storage unit?

4) The leak detection capability of 5scfm/2.5scfm only addresses very large methane leaks. Was that intentional?

5) What is the value of knowing the flux rate vs. no leak/small leak/medium leak/large leak?

6) Why are the temperature ranges so extreme and how should we think about that specification?

7) For those applications that include leak detection systems, will that be tested in round 1, or not until round 2?

8) Do the target costs provided in the RFP ($5,000/$1,000 per system) include wind speed and direction?

9) How will intellectual property be addressed?

10) What will be the size of the industry pilots planned for late 2015?

11) Does the sensor need to be intrinsically safe?

12) What are the required certifications?

13) What is the approximate size of an area to be monitored?

14) If a solution were to come on the scene, say six months from now, that clearly was superior to those of your participants, would the group with the solution be handicapped in any way from participating in your Challenge?

15) In the case of a system consisting of multiple open path sensors, can you clarify if there is a requirement that there be only one power pack (solar panel and rechargeable battery) for the entire system? Is the cost of the electrical cables/conduit included in the cost of the sensor system? What is the rough initial target cost for installing the sensor system?

16) Will submittals be made public?


1) How do the EDF and ARPA-E projects on methane sensing relate to each other?

In the last month, two distinct projects have been announced dedicated to advancing the next generation of methane leakage detection technologies for use in the oil and gas industry, with an emphasis on achieving even more emission reductions at even less cost than today’s effective approaches. This includes Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) "Methane Detectors Challenge" and the “Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions (MONITOR),” a program being led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Projects Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Both projects are synergistic in helping to spur new technological solutions to reduce methane emissions from the production and transportation of oil and gas. EDF’s competition targets relatively mature technologies that can be deployed in the next two years to detect larger leaks on a continuous basis. In contrast, ARPA-E’s program targets a wider range of early-stage technologies that – with significant R&D — could become disruptive technologies capable of detecting a broad range of leak sizes in the next ten years. These projects complement each other in that both are expected to stimulate technology demonstration and development, build market demand for new detection approaches, and ultimately catalyze major emission reductions that will benefit the environment, public health and maximize resource utilization. Innovators are encouraged to investigate each opportunity, and apply for one or both. Here is a table explaining how the EDF and ARPA-E programs compare:

 EDF Methane Detectors ChallengeARPA-E MONITOR Program
Industry applicabilityFocused on emissions from well pads and associated equipment, and compressorsFocused on oil and gas systems from the wellhead to the end-user
Technology stageRelatively mature technologies ready for testing in a controlled environment, and able to be deployed in industrial settings in the short runEarly stage technologies requiring substantial time and resources for development to ensure reliable detection for transformational improvements
Scope of detectionLimited to continuous detection technologies, that provide a 24/7 approach to detecting leaksOpen to continuous or periodic/mobile approaches to detecting emissions
Leak sizeFocused on large leaks; initial basic requirements of 5 and 2.5 scfm for detection, with preference for adaptive technologies and potential to detect somewhat smaller leaksFocused on a wide range of emissions including small leaks; threshold of 0.1 scfm
Information providedNotification of methane emissions, including rough indication of leak size; leak location not requiredReasonably accurate quantification of methane emissions, in addition to leak location down to 1m precision
TimelineFull proposals due June 17,2014; testing begins summer 2014; industry pilots expected in 2015Concept papers due June 13, 2014, Full application deadline TBD
Funding typeIndependent testing paid for by EDF; industry pilot purchases expected; no development awards anticipatedUp to $30M provided for development of the technology, in increments between $250,000 and $10M per awardee
Market accessMany of the participating companies intend to make pilot purchases and trial deployments of instruments that meet the specificationsNot applicable
PartnershipEDF partnering with five leading oil and gas producersARPA-E partnering directly with innovators to help them develop their technologies; no industry partnership planned at this time

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2) Can you provide more information on the testing protocols? For example: (1) will corrosive compounds be used during testing (2) what other gases will be used (3) is it in a chamber, some sort of tubing, across a room?

The round one testing protocols are in development as of May 2014, and will be finalized only after the down-selection for round one of testing. Below are general comments that reflect the current, high-level testing plan. Significantly more detailed testing protocols will be reviewed this summer with selected innovators, with an opportunity for innovators to ask questions and provide input.

The first test will be a baseline test to establish the sensitivity of each sensor in an environment free of influences such as wind and high humidity. A closed volume (size to be determined based on number and types of sensors to be used) of either air or nitrogen will be utilized. A long pipe could be utilized for open-path sensors. Methane will be introduced to the volume in "steps" (up and down) of changing concentration until the sensor detects the presence of methane. This same configuration could be leveraged to simulate a fixed background concentration and what concentration above background must be present for detection. The setup could also be used to test whether other gases (e.g., CO2) would produce a false alarm with the sensor. Note: corrosive or sour gases will not be utilized for this stage of testing.

The second set of tests will be conducted either in an open-volume (possibly outdoors) or the same vessel from the baseline tests. This test could be utilized to test different types of leaks (e.g., leaky gasket, open valve, etc.) at varying rates and concentrations. Similar to the baseline test, other gases could also be introduced to determine if other plumes result in a false alarm. It would also be important to run some tests in the presence of wind (likely simulated) to look at its effect on detection. During this test, the position of the various sensors will be varied to look at the effect of proximity.

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3) Section 1.4 of the Methane Detectors Challenge RFP states that first round testing is primarily focused on the sensor and that there is a preference for technologies that can be sold for roughly $1,000 or less per well pad when produced at scale. Is the $1,000 cost target for the sensor, sensor system, installed sensor system, or installed sensor system with a solar power array and battery storage unit?

The desired specifications, both in terms of scope of solution and cost, vary over the multiple phases of this project.

In the first phase of this project, Lab Testing, scheduled for July-September 2014, laboratory testing will be performed on the sensors (or as applicable, systems) submitted by the successful applicants. The minimum submission that will be considered at this phase is for a sensor(s), and it can but need not include a system component and/or a solar power array or battery storage unit. Firm cost requirements are not specified in this first phase because it is recognized that some technologies may be prototypes, and the primary emphasis is performance. In general, however, there is a preference for technologies that could have a path to low cost production over time and at scale, as specified in the RFP (PDF) and Application (PDF) and discussed further below.

In the second phase of this project, Lab/Field Testing, scheduled for March-June 2015, the successful applicants from the first phase will be selected for more intensive Lab/Field tests. The expectation is that at this point, there will be systems integration, including a solar panel and rechargeable battery. Cost requirements are also not specified for this phase.

In the third phase of this project, "Industry Pilot/Purchase Deployment", scheduled to begin in September 2015, we expect successful participants will take part in extended pilot testing at operating facilities run by many of the participating oil and gas companies. These sensor systems should have hardware costs of $5,000 or less per well pad or compressor station, and here the requirements do include solar panel and rechargeable battery.

The ultimate goal of the Methane Detectors Challenge is to jump-start the market for technologies that provide continuous detection of methane at national/international commercial scale. The expectation is that we are still 2-5 years away from achieving that vision. The rough, initial target we have set is that the sensor systems should be capable of being sold at a price of $1000 per system per well pad, assuming the economies of scale for mass production, and recognizing the potential for innovation over the coming years to drive down costs of certain components. The $1,000 target does include the solar panel/rechargeable battery, and we would anticipate one power pack per multi-sensor system. We understand that $1,000 is an aggressive target. Innovators should think of this as an aspirational target, not necessarily a firm cutoff point for purchases.

Note that both the $5,000 (pilot phase) and $1,000 (commercialization phase) refers to the price of hardware, not including installation or servicing costs.

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4) The leak detection capability of 5scfm/2.5scfm only addresses very large methane leaks. Was that intentional?

The leak detection capabilities were consciously set at 5 scfm for the second round of testing, and 2.5 scfm for the subsequent industry pilots. We acknowledge that these figures represent very large leaks. Evidence suggests that a "fat tail" of relatively few, very large methane leaks accounts for a disproportionate amount of total emissions, and this effort, by design, prioritizes technologies that can catch such leaks. However, the 5scfm/2.5scfm cutoffs should be understood as the basic, minimal requirements of the RFP, and the ability to reliably detect somewhat smaller leaks with minimal false positives will be viewed favorably.

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5) What is the value of knowing the flux rate vs. no leak/small leak/medium leak/large leak?

The primary emphasis of this effort is catalyzing low-cost technologies that alert operators of a likely leak, preferably with a directional indication of size (e.g., no leak/leak/large leak). However, we believe there may be some incremental value to also knowing the flux rate. Thus, systems that generate reasonably accurate flux rate measurements (in addition to the core leak detection functionality) may receive a modest boost in the down-selection process. This is not a required feature and systems that do not quantify flux will not be penalized.

Additional tests may be conducted as well as part of the first round of testing.

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6) Why are the temperature ranges so extreme and how should we think about that specification?

Oil and gas activities occur all across the U.S., for example from the extreme cold in North Dakota to extreme heat in Texas. An instrument that works well in the laboratory but does not perform continuously in demanding environmental conditions will not be a practical solution. Ideally, the sensors will reliably detect leaks all throughout the temperature ranges provided in the RFP. However, if that is not practicable for certain technologies, at minimum they should be immune to damage from the extremes, and resume well-functioning leak detection when the temperature retreats from the extreme. Note that temperature-controlled analyzer shelters are generally not an option due to the added costs and power requirements.

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7) For those applications that include leak detection systems, will that be tested in round 1, or not until round 2?

The round one testing will consist of multiple parts. Although the primary focus of the testing is the sensor performance, and all selected technologies will undergo such testing, a secondary focus of the round 1 testing will be the systems components of any technologies that meet that level of completeness. For round 2 of testing, the systems elements become mandatory for all participating technologies.

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8) Do the target costs provided in the RFP ($5,000/$1,000 per system) include wind speed and direction?

Yes, the target costs discussed in the RFP are meant to encompass the full capital cost for the system solution offered by the innovator. Meteorological capabilities such as wind speed and direction are one example of capabilities that are included in the target costs. Note, however, that the recurring operating costs are not specified in dollar amount in the RFP, and instead are treated qualitatively, e.g., calibration frequency once per year or less.

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9) How will intellectual property be addressed?

We understand that intellectual property is vital to innovators, and the Methane Detectors Challenge process will safeguard intellectual property to ensure robust incentives to participate. Neither EDF nor the participating companies seeks rights to any IP generated or tested in this process. After the RFP selection process takes place, and before the instruments are delivered and testing is commenced, each innovator will be asked to sign a contract that will spell out in more detail the IP arrangements. At that time, there will be a forum for innovators to raise questions and have a dialogue regarding IP issues, to ensure appropriate protections.

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10) What will be the size of the industry pilots planned for late 2015?

EDF will collaborate closely with the participating oil and gas companies to scope out the industry pilots anticipated to begin in late 2015. We expect that many or all of the five companies will participate by giving access to multiple sites per company, and arranging for personnel to learn the pilot equipment and provide feedback on its performance.

It is expected that the industry pilots may include well pads in multiple U.S. oil and gas plays (e.g., Bakken Shale, Marcellus Shale, D-J Basin, Permian Basin) and internationally in select locations. Although the exact magnitude of pilots is to be determined, the aspiration is for there to be a large enough data set that diverse observations can be made, enabling informed conclusions about the performance in a wide variety of operating conditions and readiness for more widespread commercial use. Innovator input will also be solicited during the pilot design phase, to ensure an optimal approach that can work for all parties. It is anticipated that pilots may include more than one innovator/technology. Note that the industry pilot phase is contingent on successful fulfillment of the criteria during the testing phases.

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11) Does the sensor need to be intrinsically safe?

Innovators do not need to have intrinsically safe sensors at this time, as the initial testing will occur in general purpose/unclassified areas. However, during the industry pilot phase, intrinsically safe model versions of the sensor will be required. Further, innovators may be encouraged to also provide lower cost, non-intrinsically safe versions.

Note that "Intrinsically safe" is not required for all applications, but it is for some, such as in an enclosed areas at a compressor station. On the fence line of a well pad, the device may not require an intrinsically safe electrical classification such as Class I, Division 2 or Class I, Division 1, however if the device is mounted closer to tanks or other oil and gas equipment, an electrical classification may be required. If your device is not currently designed for intrinsically safe areas, but otherwise is reliable and accurate for measuring methane in a variety of harsh environmental conditions, then we are interested in evaluating it. As noted above, over time, we would expect build-out of intrinsically safe versions, to maximize operator flexibility in different use cases.

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12) What are the required certifications?

No certifications are required during round 1 and round 2 of this RFP. However, each company may require different certifications before allowing the instruments on site. Those issues will be resolved before beginning the industry pilots with the specific companies involved.

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13) What is the approximate size of an area to be monitored?

The primary application of the system will be to detect leaks at well pads, which range in size from approximately 50 x 50 m to 150 x 150 m. Potential emission sources typically are clustered into several groups of equipment distributed throughout the well pad, such as wellheads, separators, and tank batteries. The spatial extent of these equipment groups can range from less than 10 x 10 m for wellheads to over 25 x 50 m for large tank batteries. The secondary application of the system will be to detect leaks at compressor stations, which normally are larger than well pads with a typical range between 100 x 100 and 200 x 200 m. Compressor stations also tend to have clusters of equipment such as compressor engines, but often also include large sections of aboveground pipelines with potential leak points. For both well pads and compressor stations, we expect that systems could either monitor the entire area or the discrete areas with potential leak points.

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14) If a solution were to come on the scene, say six months from now, that clearly was superior to those of your participants, would the group with the solution be handicapped in any way from participating in your Challenge?

We have designed this effort to be a structured process with multiple junctures for down-selection. Innovators who want to participate are highly encouraged to apply for the RFP for round 1 testing. The only scenario in which an innovator can join the process late is if he/she forms a team with an innovator who participates from the beginning and passes a down-select juncture. Addressing the example above, let us assume that Innovator X does not apply to the RFP, but in November 2014 wants to introduce his/her approach to the Challenge. Innovator X’s only pathway to do so would be teaming up with an innovator who passed round 1 of testing in summer 2014 and is looking to form a team-based approach for the second round.

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15) In the case of a system consisting of multiple open path sensors, can you clarify if there is a requirement that there be only one power pack (solar panel and rechargeable battery) for the entire system? Is the cost of the electrical cables/conduit included in the cost of the sensor system? What is the rough initial target cost for installing the sensor system?

Although we would anticipate that a multi-sensor approach would likely run off a single power pack to keep cost down, that is not a requirement. It will be up to the innovator to determine the optimal approach for that aspect of the application. The cost of cables/conduits are included in the cost of the sensor system. We do not have a specific dollar cutoff for cost of installing the sensor system; instead the cost should be competitive in the market.

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16) Will submittals be made public?

No, proposals in response to the RFP will not become public. They will be reviewed only by EDF, Southwest Research Institute, and the Steering Committee and Technical Advisory Panel assembled for the Methane Detectors Challenge (including industry and independent experts).

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Please refer to the RFP (PDF), including Table 1 (Specifications desired in each phase of the challenge), for additional information, and write us at methanedetectors@edf.org if you have additional questions.

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