Finalists Selected in Race to Commercialize Next-Generation Methane Monitors

August 21, 2014
Steven Goldman, (202) 572-3357,
Lauren Whittenberg, (512) 691-3437,

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 21, 2014) Environmental Defense Fund announced five innovations that will advance in the Methane Detectors Challenge, a collaboration with seven oil and natural gas companies aimed at identifying next-generation technologies that will help better monitor methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations, with the intent to ultimately promote meaningful reductions of these gases. 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 selected technologies will receive one or more rounds of laboratory or field testing to evaluate their efficacy in detecting methane leaks.

The Methane Detectors Challenge attracted 20 proposals from companies and university research teams–using an array of diverse technologies ranging from infrared lasers to circuit boards filled with off-the-shelf sensors–attesting to the growing environmental and economic value that can be derived from improved methane detection. EDF and the oil and natural gas companies participating in the Challenge anticipate a growth opportunity in the technology market for solutions that deliver rapid leak detection.

Through this initiative, EDF and its partner organizations–including Anadarko Petroleum Company and Shell, the latest two oil and natural gas companies to join–have sought out innovative systems that can provide continuous detection of methane emissions at oil and gas sites at a low price point. Five teams’ innovations were selected to move forward:

  • An integrated system for very low level methane leak detection, adapted from a handheld meteorological sensor currently used in vehicles to detect high alcohol levels in drivers, developed by RAE Systems, a subsidiary of Fortune 100 company Honeywell, in collaboration with SenseAir, a Swedish sensor designer;
  • A sensor network on a single circuit board, using low-cost, commercially available sensors, designed by a research team from the University of Colorado Boulder;
  • An electrochemical sensor solution with a target cost of $30, developed by researchers from Oakland University and Michigan State University;
  • An infrared laser-based methane detection system currently used to sense natural gas in the Chinese coal industry, designed by Dalian Actech, a Chinese firm, working with Foller & Associates, a Silicon Valley-based angel investment group; and
  • A low-cost, methane-specific laser-based system that does not require direct contact for detection, developed by Quanta3, a technology startup company founded by a Boulder-based research engineer.

The five technology developers will have their innovations undergo a first round of independent testing at Southwest Research Institute’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Texas starting next month. The most promising technologies that meet the required specifications will advance to further laboratory and field testing, potentially followed by pilot testing at facilities run by participating companies.

“Anadarko prides itself on being a leader in the control and reduction of emissions wherever we operate,” said David McBride Anadarko Vice President, Health Safety and Environment. “This requires we evaluate and implement proven methods of controlling and measuring emissions, as we continuously strive to improve our operational performance through sound science and technology. To that end, the diverse technologies being tested through the Methane Detectors Challenge hold real promise, and we look forward to the next phase of this process.”

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. 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.

Full details on the Methane Detectors Challenge, including descriptions of each selected team and technology, and all participating companies can be found at

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