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Methane Leak Detection System

Aeris Technologies
ARPA-E Award: 
Redwood City, CA
Project Term: 
04/15/2015 to 08/26/2018
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

The recent expansion of domestic natural gas production, particularly from shale resources, has improved the economic, security, and environmental outlook of our nation's energy portfolio. Unfortunately, at least 2% of this gas resource is wasted through leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, at production sites. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) if emitted directly to the atmosphere, and methane emissions from natural gas development may undermine the climate benefits of using lower carbon natural gas for power generation. Existing methane monitoring devices have limited ability to cost-effectively, consistently, and precisely locate and quantify the rate of methane emissions. Affordable sensing systems would enable more effective methane mitigation programs, which could lead to a reduction in overall methane emissions and more efficient extraction and use of domestic energy resources.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Aeris Technologies will partner with Rice University and Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop a complete methane leak detection system that allows for highly sensitive, accurate methane detection at natural gas systems. The team will combine its novel compact spectrometer based on a mid-infrared laser, its patent-pending multi-port sampling system, and an advanced computational approach to leak quantification and localization. Their approach will use artificial neural networks and dispersion models to quantify and locate leaks with increased accuracy and reduced computational time for use in a diverse range of meteorological conditions and wellpad configurations. At each wellpad, a control unit will house the core sensor, a computing unit to process data, and wireless capability to transmit leak information to an operator, while the multi-port gas-sampling system will be distributed across the wellpad. Aeris' goal is to be able to detect and measure methane leaks smaller than 1 ton per year from a 10 meter by 10 meter site. At this level of sensitivity, which is in the ppb range, Aeris estimates that its system can facilitate a 90% reduction in fugitive methane emissions. Compared to current monitoring systems that can cost $25,000 annually, Aeris' goal is a cost of $3,000 or less a year to operate.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Aeris' system could detect highly sensitive methane measurements at a fraction of the cost of current systems.


Better methane detection technologies could improve the sustainability of domestic natural gas production and the safety of operations.


Enhanced detection systems could enable greater mitigation of methane leakage and lead to an overall reduction in harmful methane emissions associated with natural gas development.


New innovations could decrease the costs of methane detection and help accelerate the adoption of monitoring programs at the nation's more than 480,000 producing natural gas wells.

Innovation Update: 

(As of May 2018)
Aeris developed a methane detection system that combines a sensitive laser sensor with an algorithm to locate and quantify natural gas leaks. The system relies on sensors that can simultaneously detect methane and ethane in the mid-infrared range. Because ethane is not biogenic and comprises 2-15% of natural gas, the correlated detection of both gases unambiguously identifies a natural gas leak. Aeris was able to build a sensor at a much lower cost than the current state-of-the-art. Its design is also very compact – the whole unit fits into a small, hand-held protective case.  The team has also integrated an artificial neural network inversion approach to enable the laser-based point detector to automatically measure, locate, and quantify emissions in an area. Other inversion approaches rely on driving a vehicle around an area and performing quantification and localization offline while Aeris’ system can provide emissions information in real time.


Aeris is currently focused on selling beta units of the sensor. The team began taking orders in 2016 from university researchers and professionals in the oil and gas industry. Aeris plans to sell both the miniature portable unit as well as a temperature-controlled rack-mounted unit.


For a detailed assessment of the Aeris project and impact, please click here.


ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Joseph King
Project Contact: 
Dr. James Scherer
William Marsh Rice University
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Release Date: