Collaboration on Remote Sensing Technologies
Background and Objectives
The Environmental Partnership promotes information sharing among participating companies on best practices and new technologies that can help reduce methane emissions in their operations. Many new remote sensing technologies are being developed. The Partnership has collaborated with several groups to understand their capabilities in aerial technologies, including the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab/University of Arizona, GHGSat, Bridger Photonics and Kairos Aerospace, and facilitated the dissemination of methane emission observations to operators.
The objectives of these collaborations were to:
- Demonstrate aerial survey technology capabilities and introduce the technology to participating companies.
- Facilitate data management and enable data flows from survey companies to operators, which is often a challenge for surveying organizations and study teams.
- Collect anonymous data across a mix of operations to advance understanding of methane emissions profiles, including source identification and approximate rates.
- Reduce methane emissions from confirmed leaks.
- Incorporate learnings into The Environmental Partnership program by promoting practices to further reduce emissions across operations.
JPL/University of Arizona
In 2020, a team of researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona (UA) deployed the Next Generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-NG) over portions of the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico in order to observe emissions of methane from oil and gas operations in the region. The AVIRIS-NG instrument was mounted on a twin-otter aircraft and uses reflected sunlight and advanced spectroscopy to identify methane plumes at the surface. The JPL/UA team engaged with The Environmental Partnership to share data with member companies in the region to help gather information to characterize emission sources in the Permian Basin. JPL/UA flew four flight ‘boxes’ – two of which were centered over the Delaware portion of the Permian Basin, one centered over Denver City and a fourth east of Midland, TX. JPL/UA developed a rapid-response data product based on detection of plumes from a neural network classification and delivered georeferenced methane plume images and locations to The Environmental Partnership after the conclusion of their flights (https://methane.jpl.nasa.gov/).
In November 2021, GHGSat deployed their aircraft mounted spectrometer over three target areas in the Permian to monitor emissions from participating company assets. GHGSat’s aircraft instrument uses reflected sunlight to measure column integrated methane between the airplane and ground surface and has stated detection limits greater than 10 kg/hr. Additionally, GHGSat is targeting six areas in the Permian with their satellite Wide Area Survey product.
Bridger Photonics’ Gas Mapping LiDAR™ (GML) technology is based on wavelength modulation spectroscopy (WMS) using a laser wave- length near 1650 nm to determine the path-integrated methane concentration between the aircraft and the ground-based topographic back-scatterer. The GML technology is selective to methane and can operate over a wide range of environmental conditions and wind speeds. Bridger also acquires concurrent digital aerial photography and LiDAR mapping of the surface height, which is used for identification of surface equipment and height of the emission source. Bridger acquires all data from an airborne platform and the data is geo-registered to a common global coordinate system. Bridger’s stated emission rate detection sensitivity is 150 scfh with a 95% detection probability. In 2021, Bridger conducted multiple flyovers and the information was shared at a workshop and with operators.
In 2020, Kairos Aerospace flew sections of the Permian Basin as part of a project conducted separate from The Partnership. Kairos Aerospace has developed an instrument that uses reflected sunlight to detect column integrated methane between the ground surface and airplane. The Kairos instrument has a stated detection limit of 40 MCF/day. Kairos Aerospace shared a limited selection of data with companies participating in the program.
The development, testing, and utilization of new detection technologies is rapidly advancing our knowledge of methane emissions and enhancing industry’s active efforts to prevent and mitigate emissions. The Environmental Partnership’s collaboration with multiple parties supplying methane emission detection methodologies has yielded important learnings for participating companies, including the following:
- Utilizing aircraft-based technologies is useful to monitor operations and yields actionable information for companies to monitor and mitigate emissions.
- Companies utilize multiple methods to follow up on aircraft-based detections, including operational data (e.g., process control instrumentation, examining maintenance, or other records), optical gas imaging and audio-visual-olfactory inspection.
- Based on observations across the platforms, the cause of more frequently observed emission sources (e.g., storage tanks, compressors, and flares) warrants ongoing investigation to identify best operational practices, technology, or equipment to address and avoid emissions.
- Continued investigation and data collection from a larger number of sites across additional oil and natural gas basins is warranted. Current data sets are not statistically representative to draw sound conclusions regarding regional emissions for baseline inventory or emission intensity determinations.
The Environmental Partnership will continue its investigation of practices and technologies to build upon these initial efforts to advance new technologies and reduce emissions and plans to expand the current program to address more frequently observed emission sources through new practices and program reporting.