Identifying Super Emitters leads to greater methane emissions reductions

Picarro’s major contribution to the emissions reduction space has been the pioneering development of advanced leak detection technology and analytics that enable emissions data to be taken rapidly at scale. Large emitters, which frequently contribute disproportionately to emissions, can be easily identified so they are remediated first as part of an informed and cost-effective emissions reduction strategy

Picarro is a global leader in advanced leak detection; emissions quantification and reduction; and pipe replacement optimisation. The company’s solutions enable customers to improve the safety of their infrastructure and increase capital efficiency. 

The P-Cubed® hardware-enabled software is at the heart of the Picarro solution. It is combined with high-tech gas sensor technology that is installed into a car, and is driven throughout gas infrastructures. As it travels, it collects data on gas plumes that can be used for multiple applications. The P-Cubed analytics and algorithms quantify the flowrate based on profiles observed in gas leak plumes. With the detailed data and analysis P-Cubed provides, gas pipeline operators can appropriately prioritise which leaks to repair for greater methane emissions reductions.  

The award-winning P-Cubed analytics platform enables operators to map system risk, improve leak survey efficiency, and pinpoint and mitigate fugitive methane emissions.

Doug Ward, Picarro’s Director of Gas Sales & Marketing, says geolocating Super Emitters can help operators efficiently address their fugitive methane emissions substantially. 

“Our study concludes that in all cases, natural gas leakage data sets are very long-tailed, and most of the leaks in the infrastructure are small. In aggregate, the small leaks don’t amount to very much of the overall fugitive emissions. What is impactful is a very small number of these Super Emitters,” he says. 

“The largest 5 to 10 per cent of leaks are accountable for over 50 per cent of emissions. If you can geolocate those Super Emitters efficiently, you have a powerful new tool to enhance safety of the infrastructure while dramatically reducing fugitive emissions.”  

Emissions Quantification Analytics Dashboard
Emissions Quantification Analytics Dashboard

Picarro enables operators to identify, quantify and prioritise repair of Super Emitters.

Picarro has been identifying and quantifying Super Emitters for several years now for pipeline operators; one example can be seen with one of the company’s utility clients, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). PG&E owns about 43,000 miles (71,000 km) of mains and services 4.3 million gas customers.  PG&E started using Picarro to survey its entire gas network system yearly in 2018 with one third of the system being done for regulatory leak survey compliance and the other two thirds of their network for emissions purposes, only to identify and address Super Emitters. 

Identifying and addressing Super Emitters can have a positive impact on public safety and reducing overall network system risks.  Picarro’s data shows that Super Emitters are more likely to be below-ground and high consequence compared to the overall leak population.  More than two-thirds of Super Emitter leaks are hazardous. Quantifying and repairing them provides an instant system risk reduction. Picarro’s solution allows you to quickly and effectively identify their location. 

Following increased global attention on greenhouse gas regulations and new government legislation, there has been a greater emphasis on operator accountability in terms of emissions. 

Australian gas utilities are beginning to adopt Picarro’s revolutionary solution to enable them to identify and address Super Emitters across their network. In the country, two of the top five gas distribution utilities have used Picarro to such effect, and plans are underway for a third top utility to do the same in 2022. 

In 2021, results for one of the utilities showed that about 5 per cent of these larger emitter leaks accounted for 38 per cent of the gas network’s total emissions. By identifying and addressing Super Emitters, utility companies can make a significant impact to reducing greenhouse gas and methane emissions and reduce system risks. 

“I have observed this past year that Australian gas pipeline operators are beginning to quickly see the value of utilising our Super Emitter application to impactfully reduce their fugitive methane emissions while also enhancing public safety,” Ward says. 

This kind of emissions quantification technology gives operators the ability to prioritise their repairs by the size and seriousness of the leak. 

For more information visit the Picarro website. 

This article featured in the March 2022 issue of The Australian Pipeliner. Click here to view the digital magazine.  

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