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Portable Methane Detection System

Rebellion Photonics
ARPA-E Award: 
Houston, TX
Project Term: 
04/16/2015 to 08/15/2018
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: 

Rebellion Photonics plans to develop portable methane gas cloud imagers that can wirelessly transmit real-time data to a cloud-based computing service. This would allow data on the concentration, leak rate, location, and total emissions of methane to be streamed to a mobile device, like an iPad, smartphone, or Google Glass. The infrared imaging spectrometers will leverage snapshot spectral imaging technology to provide multiple bands of spectral information for each pixel in the image. Similar to a Go Pro camera, the miniature, lightweight camera is planned to be attached to a worker's hardhat or clothing, allowing for widespread deployment. By providing a real-time image of the plume to a mobile device, the technology's goal is to provide increased awareness of leaks for faster leak repair. This system could enable significant reduction in the cost associated with identifying, quantifying, and locating methane leaks as compared to currently available technologies.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, natural gas operators could equip onsite workers with Rebellion's wearable monitors, which would be able to communicate data on the location and quantity of methane emissions to a user's handheld device and a centralized database, dramatically decreasing the time from detection to mitigation.


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


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.


Rebellion's innovation 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)
Under its ARPA-E award, Rebellion reduced the size of its gas cloud imaging (GCI) Camera—which currently must be mounted in the back of a pickup truck—to just 1 lb. and the size of a soda can. Doing so will enable easier deployment, allowing it to be mounted on a worker’s personal protective equipment. Rebellion has already reduced the size of the camera optics to support this form factor and is selling it as part of a mini-GCI unit, which is the size of a shoebox. The team also partnered with an expert in dispersion modeling to develop analytics to calculate flow rates. While reducing the camera size has advantages, the team had to address challenges with the ability of a small, battery-operated camera to relay information remotely. Rebellion is close to achieving milestones along this path, including porting the flow rate quantification and detection algorithms to field programmable gate arrays that can handle the processing onboard with minimum power consumption.


Rebellion has conducted more than 12 on-site product demonstrations with potential customers, including many of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. As of January 2018, customers have already ordered 15 mini-GCIs, which are deployed in fixed-use installations as part of a suite of automated services. As the goGCI is developed, Rebellion plans to expand its product offerings to include both a PPE-mounted goGCI and a fixed-mounted camera that can be installed at wellheads, compressor stations, or offshore drilling rigs.


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


ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Joseph King
Project Contact: 
Dr. Robert Kester
Release Date: