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DOE Awards $13M For Methane Emissions Measurement, Mitigation

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a total of $13 million to 12 multi-year research projects intended to develop efficient and effective ways to mitigate methane emissions from natural gas pipeline and storage infrastructure, and to better quantify the sources, volumes and rates of methane emissions.

The initiative "is an important part of this administration's overall strategy to address methane emissions from natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure," said Franklin Orr, DOE under secretary for science and energy.

"Improving our ability to measure and minimize methane emissions will help us to safely and efficiently use our nation's natural gas resources, and at the same time address environmental and infrastructure challenges as we work to meet our commitments on climate change," Orr said.

Seven of the projects represent the start of DOE's methane emissions mitigation from midstream infrastructure research:

  • Oceanit (Honolulu, HI), along with Chevron and Rescue Pipeline Services, will develop EverPel, a multifunctional coating to prevent corrosion and deposits that would require pipeline refurbishment and repair, which leads to methane emissions ($1.2 million);
  • Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, TX) will develop and demonstrate an optical-based methane leak detection system for midstream infrastructures ($629,517);
  • PPG Industries, Inc. (Allison Park, PA), GTI, and RTI International will develop and demonstrate three technology platforms that will be combined as a system to provide remote monitoring of natural gas pipeline conditions, and early detection of factors leading to potential for unintended methane release ($876,639);
  • Princeton University (Princeton, NJ), along with American Aerospace Advisors Inc., will develop and deploy new advances in chirped laser dispersion spectroscopy to make an airborne-based sensor for remote detection of methane leaks from pipelines, compressor stations, and other midstream infrastructure ($1.2 million);
  • Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, TX), Next Seal AB, and Williams Pipeline will develop a seal design for reciprocating compressor piston rods that mitigates the highest contributor to methane emissions from midstream machinery ($797,517);
  • Gas Technology Institute (GTI) (Des Plaines, IL) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory will develop and test an integrated thermoelectric generator/burner system in a field pilot for oil and gas field operations ($1.2 million); and
  • University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA) and Corning Inc. will develop an advanced distributed optical fiber technology optimized for natural gas infrastructure monitoring which could have significant impacts on distributed fiber sensing technology and its applications in the energy industry ($1.2 million).

DOE selected five other projects to kick off its methane emissions quantification research:

  • GTI, along with AECOM, GHD Services Inc. and WSU Laboratory for Atmospheric Research will conduct field campaigns to measure methane emissions from new and vintage plastic, plastic lined steel, and cast iron pipes as well as from industrial meters ($1.1 million);
  • Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) and AECOM will develop nationally-representative, activity-weighted, methane emission factors for each type of principal equipment located at typical gathering compressor stations suitable for use in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI), develop estimates of episodic emissions, and test new methods to characterize intermittent device emissions ($1.9 million);
  • GSI Environmental Inc. (Houston, TX), along with Utah State University (USU), Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR), Colorado State University and Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), will carry out field investigation activities at the Clay Basin, UT, underground natural gas storage facility ($1.2 million);
  • GSI, along with USU, IRNR and HARC, will employ a stepwise process to improve the accuracy of methane emissions reported in EPA's GHGI ($800,480); and
  • University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, CO), along with NIST, University of California-Davis, and Scientific Aviation, will collect ground-based regional scale measurements and aircraft measurements in order to estimate emissions across the underground storage sector ($1.3 million).

The Obama administration initially outlined its methane initiative in 2014, with a goal by 2025 of slashing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% from 2012 levels (see Daily GPIMarch 28, 2014). Earlier this year, EPA issued final New Source Performance Standards to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants (see Shale DailyMay 12). Battle lines over the proposed rules have hardened in recent weeks (see Daily GPIAug. 16).  

A plethora of research has been ongoing for several years regarding methane emissions by regulators, academia and independent groups. In June, a natural gas industry-backed assessment by ICF International found that the cost to reduce methane emissions from gas systems is $3.35/Mcf, almost five times higher than researchers had estimated two years ago (see Daily GPIJune 2). 

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