Natural Gas

The production of natural gas is at all-time highs since 2005. While the burning of natural gas for power and heat produces fewer carbon emissions than coal, the natural gas supply chain utilizes highly-pressurized pipes and tanks, and is prone to leaks. A massive 2018 study* coordinated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and published in the journal, Science, estimated that natural gas operations are currently leaking 2.3% of the total gas extracted. That is, for every hundred cubic feet of natural gas being pulled from underground reservoirs, 2.3 cubic feet is being put into the atmosphere. The leaks vary in severity and are widespread.

This is a serious problem. Natural gas consists almost entirely of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the climate-warming impact of carbon dioxide in the 20 years following its release. Methane emissions account for about 25% of the warming experienced today.

 

The Solution to Methane Gas Leaks

The climate benefits of cleaner-burning natural gas are undermined when so much of it leaks.

Leaks also mean lost product—to the tune of at least $30 billion each year. These leaks must be detected to be mitigated. Current ‘fence-line’ detection systems, like open-path lasers, are bulky and prohibitively expensive to deploy. Such technologies do not lend themselves to leak localization. (Using them as such is akin to determining which room in a massive apartment building is on fire by measuring how much smoke blows across the property line.)

To truly locate methane leaks across the entire supply chain, a new sensing paradigm is needed: low-cost, real-time sensor networks. Cloud-based, 24/7 monitoring by an array of sensors mounted near potential leak points can enable early detection and rapid localization. IoT connected, cloud enabled sensor networks are the best way to achieve fast mitigation times and to reduce the amount of methane lost into the atmosphere (and from the bottom line).

 

Methane Gas Detection 

NevadaNano’s new MPS™ Methane Gas Sensor is the first completely innovative technology for methane gas detection in over 40 years, and was designed to address the key shortcomings of existing sensing technologies. The MPS™ is built on a robust Microelectromechanical-system (MEMS) platform that is inherently low-power and poison and drift-resistant to enable calibration intervals that can be measured in years. Built-in environmental compensation delivers reliable, accurate performance across a range of harsh conditions, from -40C to 75C and 5% to 95% relative humidity.

*R. A. Alvarez et al., Science 10.1126/science.aar7204 (2018).