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12 technologies selected to compete in methane leak detection simulation

Mar 27, 2018
Precourt Institute

By Mark Golden

Stanford University’s Natural Gas Initiative and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have invited 11 organizations, covering 12 different technologies, to the controlled-testing phase of the Mobile Monitoring Challenge (MMC), a competition to advance mobile methane monitoring technologies at oil and natural gas facilities. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas – about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, though shorter lived.

A drone-based detector
A drone-based detector

“The oil and gas industry accounts for about a third of all methane emissions in the United States,” said Adam Brandtassistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “The low price of natural gas has reduced financial rewards for finding and fixing leaks, so we need mobile, low-cost and fast detection systems.”

Researchers at MMC cosponsors EDF and Stanford, along with industry advisors at ExxonMobil, Schlumberger and other companies, reviewed dozens of proposals from five countries and a range of businesses – from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies – as well as academia. The leak detection technologies selected for the study are deployed via trucks, drones and planes.

“The strong and diverse technology applications confirm that there is tremendous potential for surveying oil and gas infrastructure quickly and effectively,” said Isabel Mogstad, project manager at EDF+Business. “Collaborating with industry and technologists accelerates even better, faster, cheaper solutions for detecting and quantifying methane emissions.”

The 11 organizations selected to participate in controlled field testing this spring include:

  • ABB Los Gatos (drone)
  • Advisian (drone)
  • Aeris Technologies (truck)
  • Baker Hughes (drone)
  • Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (plane)
  • Bluefield Technologies (truck)
  • Heath Consultants (truck)
  • Kairos Aerospace (plane)
  • Picarro (drone)
  • SeekOps, Inc. (drone)
  • University of Calgary (truck)
  • University of Calgary (drone)

Stanford’s Natural Gas Initiative will design and administer field testing in two locations:

  • Most drone and truck-based systems will be tested April 9 – 13 and May 7 – 11 at Colorado State University’s Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Aircraft-mounted systems and select drone and truck systems will be evaluated May 21 – 25 through independent controlled methane releases by Rawhide Leasing in Sacramento, California.

Stanford researchers will evaluate technologies for their ability to quickly detect and roughly quantify methane leaks of various sizes. Results of the controlled trials will be published in peer-reviewed journals and used to inform product improvements. By 2019, the challenge aims to have oil and gas industry leaders piloting the most promising technologies in various operating conditions, leading to broad commercial use.