Methane Emissions Monitoring, Mitigation, and Insights to Address Global Climate Change Concerns

GTI is working on a multitude of projects to quantify and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from various sources and identify opportunities for reduction. Initiatives have addressed methane emission measurement in natural gas distribution systems, and the team is evaluating and developing technologies for leak detection and quantification for gas utilities.

Managing the Collaboratory for Advancing Methane Science (CAMS) to better understand global methane emissions

GTI will serve as the program administrator for a new industry-led collaborative research consortium that will work to advance methane science to better understand global methane emissions and the need for additional solutions.

The Collaboratory to Advance Methane Science (CAMS) will pursue scientific studies addressing methane emissions along the natural gas value chain, from production through end use. Studies will focus on detection, measurement and quantification of methane emissions with the goal of finding opportunities for reduction.

CAMS will bring together a diverse group of experts from industry, academia, and federal and state agencies to deliver factual data that can be used to inform regulations and policy development. The consortium will effectively communicate findings to program stakeholders and the general public. Results will be independently published by the research project team in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The consortium was created by leading energy companies Cheniere, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, and Pioneer Natural Resources, and other companies from across the natural gas value chain are encouraged to join.

GTI will manage the overall program, including individual research projects, as well as fiscal elements.

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Quantifying methane emissions

  • A project to quantify methane emissions from distribution pipelines for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was completed, providing important information on natural gas leaks from local distribution companies and improving methane emission estimates from this sector. State-specific emission factors based on pipe material were developed and utilized to estimate methane emissions at the state level. The next phase of work is focusing on methane emissions from residential customer meters.
  • In addition, GTI is performing an assessment of fugitive emissions from the natural gas system in commercial buildings for the California Energy Commission that will quantify total building emissions. These efforts will help to create a holistic picture of the total leakage from natural gas activities in California. Field measurements of methane emission from commercial restaurants has been completed and data analysis is underway.
  • GTI and partners received a DOE award to conduct field campaigns to measure methane emissions from new and vintage plastic, plastic-lined steel and cast-iron pipes, as well as from industrial meters. Information collected on parameters will allow further classification of pipeline and meter emission categories to improve the EPA’s U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory and help operators prioritize the repair of leaks.
  • GTI and RTI International will serve as subcontractors to PPG Industries in a DOE-sponsored project to develop and demonstrate a system to provide remote monitoring of natural gas pipeline conditions and to provide early detection of factors that may lead to an unintended release of methane.

Enhancing the ability of utilities to measure methane emissions more accurately

Working closely with operators and industry stakeholders, GTI collected and analyzed leak data for buried pipe at a host of sites in the U.S. Using better-quality methods for the quantification of methane emissions, GTI’s work is leading to more precise measurement so policymakers and private industry can have more accurate information. This high-quality data will improve estimates for activity data and promote the acceptance of new methane emissions quantification methods for compliance with EPA reporting requirements and other regulations under development.

Tools and technologies for detection, prevention, and mitigation

GTI has developed and evaluated various leak detection technologies and is currently improving these devices for various applications, ranging from the well head to residential homes.

In the early 2000s, GTI supported development of an innovative portable tool called the Hi Flow Sampler™ that can rapidly and accurately measure methane leaks—fugitive emissions—from a variety of gas industry equipment. The tool, once commercially available from Heath Consultants, was one of the first devices available for real-time measurements of gas flow rates and concentrations in a captured enclosure at the surface.

The Portable Methane Detector (PMD), developed by GTI and available from SENSIT Technologies, improves the efficiency of walking leak surveys. Using optical-detection technology, the PMD device offers sensitivity and cost advantages over conventional techniques employing flame ionization detectors.

Methane monitoring tools, comprised of a network of remote sensors connected wirelessly via phone or tablet to provide information about methane concentration at multiple points at a leak site, have been developed by GTI with support from Operations Technology Development (OTD). Field testing and demonstrations are underway with first responders. A utility measurement use case is assessing semi-permanent longer-range wireless access for utilities to monitor leaks over time. Sensit Technologies has signed a license to commercialize the technology and is working closely with operators to design and test a prototype that meets their needs.

Methane concentration does not tell the whole story. Utilities need a repeatable method to compare the leak rate and prioritize Class 2 & 3 leaks. Another new tool simultaneously measures CH4 concentration, air flow, temperature, and humidity for improved measurement and quantification of leak classification.

Midstream methane mitigation

GTI and Jet Propulsion Laboratory are developing, testing, and demonstrating a high-efficiency integrated methane mitigation thermoelectric generator (MMTEG)/burner system for oil and gas field operations. The thermoelectric generator provides power to compress air that is used instead of natural gas to operate the pneumatic controllers, resulting in natural gas recovery and reduced methane emissions. Initial experiments to simulate heat transfer to the thermoelectric generators have been completed. (repeated under Unconventional Gas Focus Area)

Residential methane detectors (RMDs) augment existing safety programs and their adoption adds another layer of protection for the detection of leaks. (link this to entry living under Enhancing Customer Gas Safety above if possible, or just repeat that entry here.

Education and outreach: CH4 Connections and the Center for Methane Research (CMR)

CH4 Connections Methane Emissions Conference

The rapidly changing landscape of technology, regulation, and work practices take center stage at the annual CH4 Connections Methane Emissions Conference. The 2018 conference was hosted in Fort Collins, bringing together over 250 leading research experts, policy makers, and environmental advocates to collaborate and share perspectives. Methane leakage, technologies to detect and reduce emissions, policy and regulatory options, and business implications and opportunities were addressed.

 

Center for Methane Research (CMR)

The CMR is a GTI collaborative program launched in 2016 with a focus on understanding and reducing atmospheric methane concentrations. It serves as a technical information resource on a range of issues related to meth­ane emissions and their real-world global warming impact. CMR collects, analyzes, and synthesizes existing fact-based data to distill important information.

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