• Facing the Future of Methane Monitoring at IMM 2022

Gas Detection

Facing the Future of Methane Monitoring at IMM 2022

Jul 17 2022

Over the last few years, industrial methane monitoring has been gathering regulatory and commercial steam, necessitating forums like our International Methane Monitoring (IMM) conference as a means of coordination between parties. By creating a channel between those on the hook for methane emissions and those best equipped to handle them, the team behind this year’s IMM hoped to provoke essential dialogues. 

And that’s exactly what happened. Over two days, an international audience from over 90 countries packed IMM 2022’s conference halls to hear some of the community’s latest ideas.  

Reconciling the Top-Down and the Bottom-Up  

One of the most important dimensions of the conversations happening at IMM 2022 related to data–management and –frameworks. For a pollutant present at a global level and of global importance, these sorts of considerations are essential by virtue of the sheer mass of data streaming into laboratories and government departments all over the world.  

As Dr. Stefan Schwietzke from the Environmental Defense Fund noted in his presentation on reconciling top-down data-sets with bottom-up information, “empirical data is needed to guide industry stakeholders and policy-makers in their efforts to prioritise and effectively mitigate methane emissions.” As such, Dr. Schwietzke introduced attendees at IMM 2022 to one of the first studies of its kind, using aerial measurements in conjunction with on-the-ground estimates that took into account sub-hourly platform activity. Importantly, this study addresses directly the data-needs of regulators, in terms of measurement resolution and scope. Although there are trade-offs in this reconciliation, it is, at the moment, these most robust means of quantifying real-time emissions. 

Indeed, Dr. Nigel Yarrow of the National Physical Laboratory couldn’t agree more. He reiterates Dr. Schwietzke’s point: “For emission reduction targets and net-zero pledges to be met with confidence, accurate and reliable reporting of methane emissions is increasingly important.” For the most part, Dr. Yarrow’s presentation took its cues from the reporting framework laid out in the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) 2.0, which includes five levels of reporting. Guidelines for Level 5, the framework’s Gold Standard, requires the reconciliation of site-level, top-down reporting with source-level, bottom-up measurements. One of the ways that Dr. Yarrow thinks this can all be achieved is with DIAL, which hoovers up all of the site-level measurements that conventional fugitive emissions surveys tend to miss. 

Locating the Sources of Methane 

Of course, though, whatever sort of informational infrastructure you opt for, it matters where you choose to monitor. As the profile of methane rises, our understanding of where methane is coming from continues to expand. For the most part, it’s coming from offshore oil and gas platforms – and as Dr. Abigail Corbett of SeekOps will tell you, innovation in this field has been moving at a rapid pace. 

In order to accurately measure real-time methane emissions in oil and gas production, Dr. Corbett is enthusiastic about miniature spectrometers on long-range UAVs, which don’t interrupt operations or require transporting personnel to offshore assets. The results speak for themselves: pairing of innovative helical flight patterns and robust algorithms isolate mass flux for rapid processing at an absolute percent-difference of 16.  

When it comes to methane emissions from offshore platforms, it has taken a while for the main risk-factor to be identified. In a compelling lecture, Dr. Jacob Shaw of the University of Manchester reveals that his team discovered that global inventories of fossil fuel emissions tended to underestimate methane emission by a factor of 42! In addition to problems in compiling the data, Dr. Shaw suggests that inventories tend to miss emissions from routine flaring. By adapting the sort of aerial monitoring techniques that Dr. Corbett outlines, it was possible to rectify this omission. 

Significant quantities of methane are release during the excavation of coal, too. As monitoring methods develop to meet this challenge, regulatory and technical guidance is drawn up to keep processes in check. But, as Dr. Jaroslaw Necki of Krakow’s University of Science and Technology relayed in his presentation at IMM 2022, some of the current levels of measurement uncertainty are holding up the verification of reductions. Throughout a highly technical presentation packed with hands-on experience, Dr. Necki lays out the difficulties confronting monitors in the coal mining sector. One potential solution, he suggests, might be incorporating an uncertainty calculation into methane budgets. 


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