Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Its carbon core and hydrogen arms are arranged in a configuration that makes it exceptional at absorbing heat.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that there were 82 million tonnes (Mt) of methane emissions from oil and gas operations in 2019, split roughly in equal parts between the two.
These emissions came from a wide variety of sources along the oil and gas value chains, from conventional and unconventional production, from the collection and processing of gas, as well as from the transmission and distribution to end-use consumers.
The IEA noted that some of those emissions were caused accidentally, for example, because of a faulty seal or leaking valve.
An increasing amount of oil and gas operators are committing to lower their emissions. Through the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) and the Global Methane Alliance programme, companies including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total aim for near zero methane emissions.
The OGCI has set a target to reduce the average methane intensity by one fifth to below 0.25 per cent, with the ambition to achieve 0.20 per cent by 2025.
“We have worked to make our ambition concrete, actionable and measurable, helping to ensure that natural gas can realise its full potential in a low-emissions future,” the heads of the OGCI member companies say.
Controlling methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is technologically achievable, generates income for companies, and contributes to reducing the climate footprint of oil and natural gas.
Making sure escaping methane is detected is the first step towards realising this goal. Although odourless and invisible to the human eye, methane can be quickly and efficiently detected by thermal cameras.
The world’s sixth sense
Most thermal imagers can’t directly detect gases, but optical gas imaging (OGI) cameras are highly specialised thermal cameras that are spectrally filtered to visualise specific gas emissions.
FLIR says OGI cameras can help oil and gas operators increase energy efficiency and reduce emission by detecting gas leaks big or small.
“OGI cameras are excellent for detecting gas leaks and supports environmental protection trends by providing immediate and tangible results,” FLIR says.
For many operators in the sector, OGI cameras have become part of the regular maintenance and safety regime, with some achieving significant cost savings and reduction of emissions.
“Many leaders in the oil and gas industry have already incorporated OGI in their leak detection and repair programs, including Anadarko of Colorado. Since implementing its OGI program, Anadarko has cut volatile compound (VOC) emissions by at least 75 per cent while doubling production.”
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards require leak detection and repair for oil and gas operations, recommending quarterly or bi-annual surveys using OGI cameras.
With the continuing introduction of methane rules by governments globally, the use of these cameras is expected to grow further.
“For the industry, this means making changes to how they find and repair leaks – a task that can be complicated and expensive. In an effort to ease the transition, FLIR is offering solutions to help oil and gas producers that are facing methane emission standards.”
Some of FLIR’s cameras that can help companies detect and reduce their methane emissions include:
Infrared camera for methane, hydrocarbon, and VOC detection
FLIR’s GFx320 camera represents ground-breaking optical gas imaging (OGI) technology for detecting methane, other hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compound emissions in areas such as well sites and offshore platforms.
The GFx320 is independently certified as Intrinsically Safe and third-party approved for use in hazardous locations.
With its superior resolution, thermal sensitivity, and the option of a High Sensitivity Mode, the FLIR GFx320 allows surveyors to visualise leaks so they can pinpoint the exact source of these emissions and commence repairs instantly.
FLIR’s GFx320 is also designed with the operator’s comfort in mind, with features that allow operators to maintain three points of contact during operation.
Quantitative optical gas imaging system
The QL320 is a quantitative OGI system that allows surveyors to measure the leak rates for methane and other hydrocarbons, eliminating the need for secondary sampling with a toxic vapour analyser or similar tool.
Unlike these traditional measurement systems, the QL320 does not require close contact with the gas in order to measure emission rates – making it a safer solution for quantifying difficult-to-measure gas leaks.
With the FLIR QL320, surveyors can determine mass leak rates (g/h, lb/h, MT/h), volumetric leak rates (cc/min, L/ min, or SCFH), or concentration (ppm-m) for most hydrocarbon gases.
Autonomous leak detection camera
Additionally, earlier this year FLIR launched the GF77a Gas Find IR camera, its first fixed-mount, uncooled, autonomous leak detection camera designed specifically to visualise methane and other industrial gases.
A new camera in FLIR Systems’ OGI series, the connected GF77a provides upstream and midstream gas processors, producers, and operators with the ability to monitor continuously for invisible methane leaks at natural gas power plants and other locations along a natural gas supply chain.
FLIR designed the GF77a to combine its industry-leading gas detection features with an uncooled, fixed-mount camera platform.
The camera is engineered to detect industrial gases such as methane, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide to improve inspections and reduce the chance of false readings.
Featuring a High Sensitivity Mode, the technology enables better detection capabilities by accentuating movement to make gas plumes easier to visualise.
The radiometrically-calibrated GF77a also measures temperature, making it a solution for monitoring tank levels and inspecting components that may overheat.
Furthermore, the FLIR GF77a provides advanced connectivity protocols that allow for seamless integration into gas monitoring systems to meet the needs of the oil and gas industry, while also making it easy for third-party partners to integrate an analytics solution.
This capability provides the industry with a solution that empowers companies to reduce emissions and ensure a safer work environment.
To find out more about FLIR or to book a camera demonstration, please call 1300 729 987 or visit the FLIR website for more information www.flir.com.au