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BHGE Releases Drone Service To Fight Methane Leaks

Drones and ground-based sensor stations provide real-time alerts to oil and gas companies about the location and rate of methane gas leaks. Source: Baker Hughes

Baker Hughes is the latest player in the oil and gas industry to start using drones as a tool to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Called Lumen, the new platform combines the flying technology with ground-based, solar-powered sensors to give facility personnel a more complete picture of fugitive methane emissions.

Baker Hughes, a subsidiary of GE, said the system transmits real-time data from the field to a cloud-based software where it is accessed via a computer or smartphone. Onboard the drone is a high-definition camera, a 3D scanner, optical gas imager, and a tunable diode laser.

Diarmaid Mulholland, the chief executive officer of Baker Hughes’ measurement and sensing business, described methane detection in a release as “one of the most pressing needs in the oil and gas industry today.”

Beyond safety and regulatory benefits, Baker Hughes added that it expects the drone system to “increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, and minimize pollutants.” The company notes that methane is 80 times more harmful than CO2 and attributes 20% of global warming effects to methane.

Methane quantification vs. simple detection has historically been a challenge for environmental researchers and the industry. Baker Hughes says that in addition to detecting the location of a leak, its use of proprietary algorithms and machine learning allow it to calculate rate and concentrations by the parts per million.

Other upstream companies have recently turned to emerging drone and software technologies to improve methane monitoring. Last summer, Norway’s Equinor invested in SeekOps, a US-based technology developer that is also using drones for emission detection. In December, Shell invested in a firm from Calgary, Osprey Informatics, which uses computer vision programing and thermal cameras to detect gas emissions autonomously.

New Carbon Reduction Goal

Baker Hughes announced the integrated technology platform at its annual meeting in Florence, Italy, where it also shared news of its ambitious CO2 emission goals. By 2030, the firm aims to halve its CO2 emissions. By 2050, the goal is to achieve a status of net-zero emissions. The company says that its emissions have already trended down by more than a quarter since 2012.

Baker Hughes’ carbon-reduction initiative involves the development of new “lower-carbon” technologies and services, some of which include:

  • Gaffney, Cline, and Associates, the service company’s consulting unit, is launching a new carbon management practice that will focus on evaluating carbon solutions and the accreditation of emission reductions.
  • NovaLT is gas turbine generator technology that operates on 100% hydrogen for the Port Lincoln Project, a hydrogen power plant facility in South Australia.
  • Modular gas processing systems will recover 200 MMcf/D of flare gas from the Nassiriya and Al Gharraf oil fields in Iraq. The project will monetize the gas and reduce CO2 emissions by 5.7 million metric tons per year.
  • An integrated compressor line for offshore facilities operates with zero emissions and uses an electric motor along with magnetic bearings for added efficiency.
  • A flare monitoring software, flare.IQ, has been released to reduce flaring-related emissions.
  • NextSource, a modular CO2 capturing system, converts thermal energy from engine exhaust to supply oil and gas operators with a low-cost source of CO2 for well injections. The four-engine unit reduces CO2 emissions by 16,200 metric tons annually, an overall reduction of 60%.

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