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Optical Sensors for Methane Detection

LI-COR Biosciences
Ultra-Sensitive Methane Leak Detection System for the Oil and Gas Industry Exploiting a Novel Laser Spectroscopic Sensor with Revolutionary High Performance / Low Cost
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,849,950
Location: 
Lincoln, NE
Project Term: 
05/15/2015 to 08/12/2017
Project Status: 
CANCELLED
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: 
LI-COR Biosciences is working with Colorado State University (CSU) and Gener8 to develop cost-effective, highly sensitive optical methane sensors that can be integrated into mobile or stationary methane monitoring systems. Their laser-based sensor utilizes optical cavity techniques, which provide long path lengths and high methane sensitivity and selectivity, but previously have been costly. The team will employ a novel sensor design developed in parallel with advanced manufacturing techniques to enable a substantial cost reduction. The sensors are expected to provide exceptional long-term stability, enabling robust, unattended field deployment and further reducing total cost-of-ownership. CSU will test representative sensor prototypes and demonstrate the sensor's application to leak detection and quantification. The team's proposed sensor could decrease the expense of today's monitoring technologies and encourage widespread adoption of methane monitoring and mitigation at natural gas wellpads.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, LI-COR's low-cost sensor will be a valuable component of more cost-effective and accurate methane monitoring systems for natural gas producers.
Security: 
Better methane detection technologies could improve the sustainability of domestic natural gas production and the safety of operations.
Environment: 
Enhanced detection sensors could enable greater mitigation of methane leakage and lead to an overall reduction in harmful methane emissions associated with natural gas development.
Economy: 
LI-COR's design will be less expensive to manufacture and therefore could help lower the cost of methane monitoring.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Eric Schiff
Project Contact: 
Dr. Mark Johnson
Release Date: 
12/16/2014