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Capitol Hill Hearing Technologies to Reduce Methane Emissions

I just watched a hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee on efforts to reduce methane emissions from the US oil and gas industry. Four experts testified: Dr. David Lyon from Environmental Defense Fund, Riley Duren with Carbon Mapper, Dr. Brian Anderson, director of the National Environmental Technology Laboratory, par of the Department of Energy, and Dr. Greg Rieker, professor at the University of Colorado and founder of LongPath Technologies.

Some interesting highlights:

  • Methane emissions have accounted for about half of global temperature rise since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
  • Methane is eighty times more efficient in causing increased temperatures than the same volume of carbon dioxide.
  • 2.3% of natural gas production in the U.S. is lost in leaks and flares, an annual loss of revenue of $5 billion.
  • 5% of leak sources (“super-emitters”) in the oil patch are responsible for more than half of fugitive emissions.

The focus of the hearing was on technologies to locate leaks so they can be fixed, and pending regulations now proposed by the EPA to reduce methane leaks.

The two technologies to locate leaks are satellite leak detection and on-the-ground 24-hour monitoring.

Carbon Mapper is a non-profit developing satellite technology to detect leaks.

LongPath Technologies is a start-up company using Lidar mounted on towers in the oilfield to detect leaks. A single tower can monitor and locate leaks within a 20 square-mile area. Field trials for the technology are now in place to monitor 300,000 acres, and the company expects that to soon expand to 650,000 acres. Companies subscribe to its services and are provided real-time leak-detection data for their facilities in the field. Profits from fixing leaks and capturing the methane that would otherwise be lost more than pay for the cost of the monitoring.

EDF has long been a leader in investigating the extent of methane emissions and working with state agencies to encourage methane leak reduction.

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