Technology innovators challenged to design next-generation air emission monitors

A 75-day call for proposals is now open for the “Methane Detectors Challenge”

April 3, 2014
Contact: 
Lauren Whittenberg, (512) 691-3437, lwhittenberg@edf.org
Alison Omens, (202) 507-4843, aomens@outreachstrategies.com

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 3, 2014) Environmental Defense Fund and five oil and natural gas companies are calling all engineers and technology developers to submit a proposal for the Methane Detectors Challenge. A collaborative between industry and environmental groups, this competition is designed to invent next-generation technologies that will ultimately help reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations. Methane emissions are both an economic and environmental challenge for the oil and natural gas industry. There is a market need for cost-effective technologies that provide continuous detection of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that can escape to the atmosphere during production, transportation and delivery of natural gas. The goal is to spur development and commercial marketability of cutting-edge, new technologies that could detect methane emissions, and make it easier for oil and natural gas companies to rapidly find and fix leaks.

The Methane Detectors Challenge offers technology developers a unique opportunity to have their innovation undergo rigorous, independent testing, at no cost, in Southwest Research Institute’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Texas. The most promising technologies, that meet required specifications, will advance to pilot field trials at facilities run by many of the participating companies. Recent scientific studies and analyses point to the environmental and economic value that can be derived from improved methane detection, and the collaborators anticipate a growth opportunity in the technology market for solutions that deliver rapid leak detection. 

“Apache is committed to expanding the use of natural gas as a replacement for less environmentally friendly fuels. Achieving this goal will require the support and confidence of all stakeholders,” said Jon. A. Graham, Apache Corporation’s vice president of health, safety, security and environment. “But we know there is more work to do in order to be good stewards of this resource. Apache is participating in this effort because we believe tapping innovators to help create tomorrow’s advances is another way industry can help meet this challenge.”

Apache joins companies BG Group, Hess Corporation, Noble Energy and Southwestern Energy in this effort to help catalyze new technology for continuous methane detection of oil and natural gas operations. A group of representatives from EDF and each company will select the technologies to be tested by Southwest Research Institute, one of the largest and most prestigious, independent applied research organizations in the country. The group will be advised by independent experts from Clean Air Task Force, Harvard University and the University of Houston, in addition to others. In 2015, EDF and the five oil and natural gas companies will select the top performing technologies that met required specifications during field tests for trial deployments and pilot purchases in the U.S. and abroad.

“The Methane Detectors Challenge presents a tremendous opportunity for innovative and environmentally conscious engineers and scientists,” says Chuck Kolb, President of Aerodyne Research. “Not only is this a chance to test their innovations in a well-controlled setting and receive practical feedback on real-world deployment, the Challenge may accelerate technology that will have positive global impacts on our current and future environment, economy and energy supply.”

Natural gas is an abundant energy resource that offers promise from a climate perspective. When burned, natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide of coal, and far fewer conventional pollutants. However, the cleaner-burning advantage of natural gas can be undermined by equipment that vents or leaks methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a powerful greenhouse gas if it reaches the atmosphere. Reducing methane emissions is important to ensuring that the potential climate advantage of natural gas is not lost. Industry, academic and government technical authorities agree that cost-effective, dependable detection technologies can promote meaningful reductions in methane emissions.

“EDF initiated this Methane Detectors Challenge to jumpstart the market in finding solutions that could cut emission detection time from months to minutes,” said Ben Ratner, manager in the EDF natural gas program. “We’re collaborating with leading companies, researchers, and other experts because we all see the promise of unlocking emerging technology to help the climate in a big way.” 

Full details on the Methane Detectors Challenge, including the Request for Proposal and downloadable Application Form, can be found at www.edf.org/methanedetectors

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