Detecting methane with advanced tech

Science & technology

Tucked in the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains sits an eight-acre outdoor technology testing center dedicated to improving methane emissions detection.

The Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center (METEC) site, hosted by Colorado State University’s (CSU) Energy Institute, replicates the landscape of natural gas production facilities that carefully simulate emissions, drawing academics, companies and entrepreneurs seeking to enhance their methane emissions detection technologies.

The technology systems tested in Ft. Collins have included fixed sensors, handheld devices, drones and mobile units atop vehicles.

Today, drone technology can detect methane emissions, and the technologies are evolving, with the goal of pinpointing emission sources and quantifying emission rates.

A sampling of cutting-edge mobile systems was on display this spring at Ft. Collins during the Mobile Monitoring Challenge, hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Stanford University’s Natural Gas Initiative. Throughout the week, CSU operators controlled methane releases at varying levels and locations across the site for crews to test their ability to detect, locate and quantify the release.

As one of the corporate technical advisors to the Challenge, researchers from ExxonMobil provided an industry perspective on what these technologies will continue to face in the field.

“We see this mobile Challenge as a strong complement to our own internal research and testing effort,” said Heide L. Mairs, senior engineering advisor at ExxonMobil. “And, while the methane challenge allows us to evaluate new technologies, we know there is not one single solution.”

For the technology providers, the challenge allows them the opportunity to assess their performance and collect new data, which will ultimately advance their technology and contribute to the ability to better detect, manage and mitigate methane emissions.

Hero image: Environmental Defense Fund

Tags:   ColoradoColorado State UniversityDronesEDFmethanenatural gas
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