Tracking Methane from above

02 September 2021

ExxonMobil is setting out to change how the industry tracks, and fixes, methane leaks.

Earlier this year, ExxonMobil submitted its application to the Environmental Protection Agency to use aerial technology as a new model regulatory framework for detecting methane. Its new voluntary and groundbreaking method, if approved, could create a new framework on how the industry can cut methane emissions.

This regulatory piece is just one of the many components to help meet the company’s 2025 greenhouse gas emission plans, which include reducing its methane intensity by 40% to 50% from 2016 levels.

By using sensors attached to planes flying over vast and largely remote fields, like the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, ExxonMobil methane specialists can pinpoint leaks across hundreds of miles. Today, technicians fan across that same acreage trying to track leaks in adverse conditions and weather – using handheld cameras in a painstaking process.

The aerial approach, using LiDAR™ imaging technology developed by Bridger Photonics, will complement a suite of solutions ExxonMobil is already testing – and using – in the field. By investing in the latest technologies, the company will be able to help find, then fix, leaks faster.

Based in Bozeman, Montana, Bridger has developed gas mapping technology, based on LiDAR™ imagery that can read plumes and measure emissions. That equipment is attached to planes operated by aviation operator American Patrols to cover more ground from the sky and triangulate methane leaks across hundreds of acres. When the plane lands, the data is downloaded for analysis by ExxonMobil researchers, who can then direct crews to the identified sources on the ground.

The methane leak detection flyover program is not the only solution ExxonMobil is using to cut methane emissions, but it does offer a chance to advance a new framework that could ultimately help mitigate the risk of climate change.

Courtesy of ExxonMobil.