Statoil, an international energy company, has begun field testing an innovative technology that continuously detects methane leaks at one of its production facilities in the Eagle Ford, TX. The company will evaluate Quanta3’s technology under different conditions, with the aim of detecting leaks at production sites. It is projected that the deployment of continuous methane detection will help in accelerating ongoing initiatives to reduce the company’s methane emissions.
About 25 percent of today’s warming is driven by emissions of methane from multiple sources, including oil and gas development. Methane is the key component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas. In the U.S., methane is emitted across the oil and gas supply chain, from local utility lines under city streets to wellheads, at a rate of more than 9.8 million metric tons per year. Technologies that continuously detect methane emissions offer opportunities to reduce waste by recapturing natural gas that would be otherwise lost, with the additional benefit of improving air quality.
The technology that Statoil is deploying was developed through the Methane Detectors Challenge (MDC), a groundbreaking partnership between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), oil and gas companies, U.S.-based technology developers, and other experts. This collaboration aims to catalyze and bring to market new technologies that can enable continuous 24-hour monitoring, cutting leak detection time substantially.
“Statoil aims to be recognized as the most carbon efficient oil and gas producer. The introduction of cost-effective, innovative methane detection technologies like those developed through the MDC, can support our ongoing initiatives in this area. This creates lasting value in the communities where we work and has a global effect,” said Desikan Sundararajan, PhD, senior researcher in Statoil’s shale oil and gas R&D team. “Sensors providing real-time data on ambient facility level emissions will allow us to act upon this information in a timely manner.”
Statoil is deploying low-cost laser technology that was developed by Quanta3, a Colorado startup founded specifically to participate in the Methane Detectors Challenge. By working with Statoil, Quanta3 is gaining powerful insights, learning how its self-powered design performs in real-world field conditions and using data gathered from these pilots to improve the technology.
“Further qualification of this technology will be performed by long-term deployment across various onshore facilities throughout 2017. This initiative can be a step change in how the shale oil and gas industry will monitor fugitive emissions in the future” said Andrea Machado, senior researcher in Statoil’s shale oil and gas R&D team. “It’s a win-win situation; implementing continuous methane detection can reduce loss of valuable product and ensure a cleaner environment.”
“We believe oil and gas production should be leak free,” said Dirk Richter, founder and CEO of Quanta3. “When I heard about the Methane Detectors Challenge and size of the emission problem in the oil and gas sector, I was inspired to put my research background in laser-based systems to work to develop a 24/7 monitoring technology.”
Globally, the oil and gas industry loses about $30 billion of natural gas a year from leaks at dispersed sites ($2 billion in the U.S.), much of it from unintentional leaks that can be difficult to detect without continuous monitoring. Studies show that natural gas leaks can be reduced at least 40 percent at an average cost of about one penny per thousand cubic feet of gas produced, which will not affect low electricity or gasoline prices for the consumer.
The entrepreneurs participating in the Methane Detectors Challenge are part of a growing U.S. sector focused on helping oil and gas operators control emissions. By advancing technologies to market, this innovative partnership is adding to the pool of more than 75 U.S. companies creating jobs by offering solutions to the methane problem.
“By building bridges between innovators and companies that want scalable solutions, EDF is accelerating technologies that can help the oil and gas industry reduce waste and forging solutions that improve efficiencies, build safer communities and let the planet thrive,” said Aileen Nowlan, manager of the Methane Detectors Challenge.
Learn more about the EDF-led Methane Detectors Challenge, including details on the leading technologies, at business.edf.org/methane.
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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.