The energy industry produces, transports and uses large volumes of gases including methane (CH4) and, in the future, carbon dioxide (CO2). It is important that such gases do not accidentally leak from production facilities, pipelines and stores, but these cover large areas and monitoring them effectively with current technology is very challenging.
BGS and QuestUAV Ltd., with co-funding from Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency, are meeting this challenge by developing a cost-effective small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) gas detection system, which trained operators can take to sites for rapid monitoring. The aim is to fill the market gap between time-consuming surface monitoring and costly conventional manned aircraft, and will identify areas of leaks or fugitive emissions that can then be investigated further and rectified where necessary.
Detecting CH4 will be the main focus of the work. We will modify appropriate detectors and develop new ways to combine the flight data and gas analyses in order to produce 2D and 3D maps of gas concentration. To demonstrate high confidence in the results, we will also thoroughly test the accuracy of the measurements using more standard (though slower) methods.
A small UAV system was chosen mainly due to portability, flexibility and efficiency gains. The fixed-wing UAV, weighing less than 7 kg, was demonstrated at the kick off meeting, and various aspects of the project were discussed.
One of the main challenges of the project will be to design and build a prototype UAV gas sensor system, focusing on CH4 monitoring. Ultimately it is expected to be deployed to monitor emissions from energy operations, although preliminary testing will take place over a selection of appropriate sites.
This project is an early stage technical feasibility project, running for 12 months, and will seek to establish that a pre-industrial concept is ready for further technology development.
Contact Colm Jordan for more information.