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Innovations in methane surveying to reduce emissions and lower costs

Three technologies that can make your leak detection quicker and less expensive

Innovations in methane surveying to reduce emissions and lower costs

Did you know, over a 100-year period methane is around 30 times more potent than CO2? And, that the estimated three percent of methane lost from supply chains because of leaks can represent a significant monetary loss? There’s no arguing why both governments and oil and gas operators continue to try and minimize methane leaks.

Annually. Bi-annually. Quarterly. It’s common for operators to regularly carry out surveys across their assets to find and fix methane leaks. Some operators even monitor facilities every month or carry out rolling surveys to keep losses at a minimum.

And while this vigilance keeps regulator, stakeholder and management confidences in check, performing regular surveys is expensive.

So why do current leak detection systems cost so much?

A typical methane emissions survey starts with an engineer visiting a facility. This facility could be several hours drive from base and possibly in a remote location.

"Annually. Bi-annually. Quarterly. It’s common for operators to regularly carry out surveys across their assets to find and fix methane leaks. Some operators even monitor facilities every month or carry out rolling surveys to keep losses at a minimum."

The engineer will survey asset-by-asset. They will follow a set of Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs) alongside the report from the previous survey. The engineer will first use an optical gas imaging (OGI) camera to detect any emissions. And when a methane leak is detected, they use a Flame Ionization Detector (FID) or similar ‘sniffer’ device to read the concentration levels. Once the asset is checked by the engineer, they’ll then drive back to base to write up the results and file a report.

For a small facility with a single wellhead, this could take a day. For a larger facility like a refinery, this could take months to survey.

If a leak is found, a maintenance engineer will then be dispatched to fix it. In addition to the engineer’s time, other costs of surveying and fixing leaks include transport, safety equipment, and the OGI cameras and FID sensors.

Clearly there’s room for improvement

That’s why Advisian Digital has developed three new technologies to reduce costs and time - and even the need to survey in the first place.

"The solution? Long-range sensing technology, such as a drone-mounted or truck-mounted system. As the long-range sensor travels along the pipeline, it measures differences in methane concentrations in parts per billion and provides a prioritized list of fixes."

Technology one – measuring the size of a leak

Traditional OGI allows an operator to see fugitive emissions using an OGI camera. While this is a useful technique for locating leaks, an operator can’t use it to measure the amount of methane escaping.

Quantitative optical gas imaging (QOGI) is a new technology that takes raw OGI footage and provides a predicted quantification value from it. This can be done while the survey engineer is at site, meaning small fixes can be made immediately.

QOGI can also be used to quickly prioritize which leaks to fix.

Technology 2 – Static monitoring to monitor leaks in real-time

Static (in-situ) monitoring of remote facilities offers a way to monitor leaks in real-time. Site engineers can quickly see if the fix has been successful and if the job can be closed immediately without another inspection.

This sort of monitoring leads to overall savings by reducing inspection truck rolls and fixing leaks in near real-time.

Technology 3 – Long-range instead of short-range sensing

There are some assets where inspections are a full-time process. For pipeline surveys, it’s common for an engineer to continually survey a single section of pipeline. This engineer will spend the day driving along the pipeline, stopping at each potential leak zone and using OGI and concentration sensing equipment to detect and report any fugitive emissions. Not only does this require a full-time resource, but leaks can occur in areas that are not actively monitored. They can be either between survey points or in buried or unreachable sections of the pipeline.

The solution? Long-range sensing technology, such as a drone-mounted or truck-mounted system. As the long-range sensor travels along the pipeline, it measures differences in methane concentrations in parts per billion and provides a prioritized list of fixes.

It’s more accurate. It’s faster. And it’s less expensive, too.

Good data practice underpins successful methane leak detection

The common theme across each of these technologies is that they produce large quantities of data. The data must therefore be centrally managed so that operators can use advanced algorithms to analyze these datasets and extract intelligence.

Having an asset’s full dataset in one place allows operators to easily access their maintenance records and leak performance in relation to others. This allows for better benchmarking, improvements in preventative maintenance and enhanced safety.

Detecting leaks faster. Reducing product loss. Helping the planet

By deploying the right technologies, operators can reduce the time and frequency of methane surveys. Monitoring can become more accurate for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

And it can become a valuable tool for maximizing profit.

Click here to find out more about our fugitive emissions monitoring platform, FETCH4

Originally written by Nick Bailey from Sedo Labs

Ryan Strom, Director

Ryan Strom

Director, Advisian Digital

Ryan is the Product Director for Advisian Digital’s Fugitive Emissions and Assure platform. He has over 20 years’ experience in consulting, and small to medium-sized project and business management. Ryan is passionate about doing business through digital means, helping clients to reduce their costs and improve the sustainability of their business.