Tackling methane emissions in Australasia’s oil and gas industry

Discover how Bridger Photonics’ new technologies enables navigation of emissions reduction challenges.

At the core of Australasia’s oil and gas industry lies a critical task: the reduction of methane emissions across the entire value chain.

Emission reductions are important due to the strong global warming potential of methane, and oil and gas resources present accessible mitigation opportunities to assist.

From remote gas fields to extensive pipeline networks and liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities, every part of the industry is committed to confronting this challenge head-on. Balancing energy demands with emission reduction goals is a complex task, and operators across the globe face similar challenges.

One such way that has emerged to help operators face this challenge is a growing field of emissions detection technology.

The field of emissions detection has experienced rapid advancements in technology in recent years, growing beyond hand-held cameras and site visits to state-of-the-art sensors flying over sites that help operators more efficiently reduce methane emissions.

Unique emissions detection

Challenges for emissions reduction across various parts of the oil and gas industry vary, and each sector faces its own unique challenges.

Production facilities are spread across a wide geographic area, are intermingled with other methane sources, consist of many different types of equipment and various potential leak sources on each facility.

Until recently, it has been difficult to efficiently detect and attribute methane emissions to a specific equipment type and from individual sources. Plumes that are lumped together as one from technologies with inadequate resolution may be misleading, creating the illusion of a single, larger leak, when several smaller leaks are present.

Adequate localisation and attribution of emissions to distinguish from nearby sources, along with the proper emission rate detection sensitivity (i.e. the leak size that is consistently detected by a technology), are key elements to gaining meaningful information about production site leaks.

Pipeline infrastructure covers tens of thousands of kilometres, can go across land owned by a third-party or through a shared right-of-way, can run below roadways, waterways, and other obstacles. Additionally, the access and ability to survey the entirety of an operator’s pipeline infrastructure combined with the proximity to cities, homes, or other civilian areas has historically made scanning for leaks difficult.

Popular emissions reporting frameworks like Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP 2.0) require transparency and accountability in reduction efforts. Additionally, Bridger Photonics continues to see regulations evolve locally and across the globe, requiring high-accuracy top-down measurements, all underscoring the need for reliable and accurate data.

Despite these challenges, innovative solutions that have been rigorously vetted on other continents by oil and gas multi-nationals offer promising avenues for enhancing emissions monitoring and mitigation efforts.

An example of the aerial methane data provided by Bridger Photonics to its clients. Image: Bridger Photonics

Innovative solutions

Innovation has always been the driving force behind progress, and this adage holds true for emissions detection. Throughout North and South America, Bridger Photonics’ aerial Gas Mapping LiDAR™ (GML) technology has been widely adopted as the market leader for emissions detection across the entire natural gas value chain.

Household names like Chevron, ExxonMobil, Cheniere, and Phillips 66 have adopted the technology, along with dozens of mid-sized and smaller operators, many after trialing several technologies.

Chevron’s Americas president of Exploration and Production Bruce Niemeyer described the company’s experience using aerial GML technology as a “gamechanger”.

“It can find leaks that are 10 times smaller than other commercial providers are capable of spotting,” Niemeyer said.

GML sensors are deployed on small aircraft – fixed-wing or rotary-wing – and scan hundreds of production sites, or hundreds of kilometres of pipeline in a single day.

Gathering lines, gas processing plants, and LNG facilities can also be monitored with unprecedented speed and accuracy. Companies whose assets span the value chain can utilise a single technology to unify their data collection and analysis.

The laser mapping techniques used by GML pinpoint leak sources down to the equipment-level, so crews can go directly to a detected leak without the need to search around a facility, thereby reducing both vehicle and foot traffic, and utilising personnel resources more efficiently.

Aerial photography captured during the scans offers valuable context for understanding activities at the facility. Emission rate quantification helps repair crews prioritise based on the relative size of emissions. GML’s easy-to-understand maps and data allow crews to clearly see the sources – without any doubt.

Having the most accurate information available becomes crucial for effective emissions reduction, baselining, and reconciliation. The integration of advanced technologies like GML, capable of providing comprehensive and accurate emission data at scale, becomes increasingly vital for operators striving to reduce emissions, meet regulatory requirements, and adhere to reporting frameworks like OGMP 2.0.

Charting the course of innovation

The oil and gas industry in Australasia is facing the monumental task of reducing methane emissions across every facet of the value chain. Amid this challenge lies an opportunity to utilise market-proven innovative technologies that have been widely validated and adopted on other continents by industry-leading operators.

GML is exceptionally positioned to support Australia’s unique oil and gas industry, from remote infrastructure crossing harsh environments, to its most complex facilities where safety is paramount. By deploying advanced technologies like GML, the industry can scan vast expanses of production sites and pipelines with unprecedented speed and accuracy, pinpointing emission sources down to the equipment level.

This strategic utilisation of innovative solutions not only enhances operational efficiency but also reinforces the industry’s commitment to emissions reduction.

With lessons learned and technologies refined through global implementation, the time is ripe for embracing these advancements and ushering in a new era of emissions reduction in the region.

With Bridger Photonics slated to begin scans in Australia this autumn, the industry is well poised to benefit from cutting-edge tools and expertise in methane emissions detection and reduction.

For more information, visit Bridger Photonics. 

This article featured in the May edition of The Australian Pipeliner. 

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