R&D program seeks
to reduce methane emissions
Twelve multi-year research projects under way
KeyLogic Inc./US Department of Energy
The emission of methane from oil and gas operations has become the topic of considerable debate of late. Methane is a “primary constituent of produced natural gas and a greenhouse gas (GHG) with a global warming potential of over 20 times that of carbon dioxide,” according to the SPE paper “Designing the
Ideal Offshore Platform: Methane Mitigation Strategy” (Bylin, et.al.,
SPE 126964, 2010). Taken together, methane emissions from oil and
gas represent a major portion of all methane emissions worldwide.
In addition to being a major GHG, emitted methane has considerable value. Annual methane emissions from the global oil and gas
industr y are equivalent (in 2010) to 94 bcm, or $10 to $23 billion worth
of natural gas lost to the atmosphere, according to the SPE paper.
In the offshore industry, methane emissions mirror global emis-
sions. In 2010, offshore production of oil and natural gas made up 9%
of methane emissions from the US production sector and 6% of total
methane emissions, accounting for 41% of total methane emissions
in the petroleum sector. The emissions come from a number of different sources, including drilling and production platforms, service
fleets and pipelines (both offshore and onshore).
In response to the growing methane emissions debate in the US,
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first-ever
standards to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector
in May 2016, after having received some 900,000 comments on an
August 2015 methane emissions reduction proposal. The standards,
and associated regulations, are predicted to reduce 510,000 short
tons of methane in 2025, according to the EPA.
At the same time, an Interagency Methane Strategy was also initiated by the Obama administration under the Climate Action Plan.
Under that strategy, the US Department of Energy (DOE) was enlisted to “continue to conduct research and analysis to help improve
our ability to measure methane emissions and advance technologies
and practices that will enable cost-effective emissions reductions,”
as noted by then US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The result was the September 2016 announcement by DOE of
a natural gas infrastructure R&D program to enhance operational
efficiency while reducing methane emissions. Under the program,
$13 million of total funding will be awarded to 12 multi-year research
projects intended to develop cost efficient and effective ways to
mitigate methane emissions from natural gas pipeline and storage
infrastructure. The research will also look to better quantify the
sources, volumes, and rates of methane emissions. This new initiative
by the Office of Fossil Energy builds upon the President’s Climate
Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.
Seven of these newly selected projects will be mitigation-focused
research efforts that will work on developing a suite of natural gas
leak reduction technologies. These research initiatives will help to
develop, modify, and evaluate tools and technologies for methane
mitigation beyond a proof of concept and eventually have the potential
to be commercialized in the near future.
The remaining five projects will advance methane emission quan-
tification research that is intended to better measure and understand
methane emissions derived from the natural gas supply chain.
The following seven projects represent the start of DOE’s Methane
Emissions Mitigation from Midstream Infrastructure research. These
detection and mitigation projects may also be applied to production
facilities and are applicable to both onshore and offshore operations.
Oceanit (Honolulu, Hawaii). Oceanit will develop EverPel, a multi-
functional coating to prevent corrosion and deposits that would require
pipeline refurbishment and repair, which leads to methane emissions.
Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Texas). Southwest
Research Institute will develop and demonstrate an optical-based
methane leak detection system for midstream infrastructures.
PPG Industries, Inc. (Allison Park, Pennsylvania). PPG Industries,
Inc., GTI, and R TI International will develop and demonstrate three
technology platforms which will be combined as a system to provide
remote monitoring of natural gas pipeline conditions, and early detec-
tion of factors leading to a potential for unintended methane release.
Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey). Princeton Univer-
sity, along with American Aerospace Advisors, Inc., will develop
and deploy new advances in chirped laser dispersion spectroscopy
(CLaDS) to make an airborne-based sensor for remote detection of
methane leaks from pipelines, compressor stations, and other mid-
stream infrastructure. The technology would use a range-resolved,
integrated-path spectroscopic technique to remotely identify leaks
along pipelines and other related facilities. The primary objective
is to develop, test, and field demonstrate the heterodyne-enhanced
Global methane emissions by source.
Natural gas systems
Million metric tons Co2e
Source: The New Move to Regulate Methane, Mark Green, Energy Tomorrow