Detecting Methane from Miles Away
University of Colorado, CIRES, NOAA and NIST team harnesses Nobel Prize technology to detect distant gas leaks
A new field instrument developed by a collaborative team of researchers can quantify methane leaks as tiny as 1/4 of a human exhalation from nearly a mile away. CIRES, NOAA, CU Boulder, and NIST scientists revamped and “ruggedized” Nobel Prize laser technology—turning a complex, room-sized collection of instruments into a sleek, 19-inch portable unit to tote into the field near oil and gas operations. The instrument collects precise, nonstop data, providing game-changing information critical for safe industry operations and controlling harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
The team, funded by an ARPA-E grant focusing on “high risk/high reward” science, published their research this week in the journal Optica along with a companion paper on the leak-finding routines in the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.
Detecting methane and other gas leaks from oil and gas operations has traditionally been hampered by high costs and technological constraints, which have limited efforts to provide continuous monitoring. The new technology, which relies on a laser system called a dual frequency comb spectrometer, provides a much-needed solution: extremely efficient, accurate data collection at a fraction of the cost of previous technologies./“This instrument is particularly special because it’s precise, autonomous, and continuous,” said Caroline Alden, CIRES researcher and a co-lead author of the study. “Other technologies like aircraft flybys or physically traveling to sampling sites pose a problem—if a leak occurs between sampling events, you missed it.”....MORE