Using drones and complementary technology, BP plc has launched an ambitious program to continuously measure methane emissions in future operated oil and natural gas projects worldwide.

Continuous measurement using gas cloud imaging (GCI) and other instruments are to be rolled out to all new major projects worldwide, the supermajor said Tuesday.

A complementary suite of methane detecting techniques has been designed to generate data to help tackle the “largest opportunities” to reduce emissions and develop best practices, ultimately aimed to deliver and improve upon BP’s methane intensity target of 0.2% from its upstream operations.

The technology deployment represents a major step-change in the oil and gas industry’s approach to detecting, quantifying and reducing methane emissions, according to BP. Engineering calculations and emission factors historically have played an important role in quantifying emissions.

“This program represents an industry first and reflects our commitment to be a leader in advancing the energy transition by maximising the benefits of natural gas,” said BP’s Gordon Birrell, chief operating officer for production, transformation and carbon.

“For gas to play its fullest role in the energy transition, we have to keep it in the pipe. This new technology will help us do that by detecting methane emissions in real time. The faster and more accurately we can identify and measure leaks, the better we can respond and, informed by the data collected, work to prevent them.”

In addition to continuous methane measurement, BP plans to make use of a network of complementary technology, including drones, hand-held devices and multi-spectral flare combustion cameras that draw upon scientific breakthroughs in diverse fields, spanning healthcare, space exploration and defense.

“Many of today’s technological breakthroughs were only aspirations until recently,” said BP’s Morag Watson, vice president of digital innovation. “Three years ago, we sat in a room and brainstormed what we would need to achieve continuous measurement, because at the time the technology portfolio needed was not yet fully developed.

“Now we have the technology and solutions to get after this challenge. Technologies like GCI enable us to have continuous measurement. Coupled with complementary intermittent tools like drones equipped with lasers and methane ‘sniffing’ technology we are now creating a step-change in how we operate our new major projects, so that, inspections that used to take seven days will now be able to take 30 minutes. That time saving will allow us to continue to innovate and deliver better results.”

The technology already has been tested and installed in existing facilities, including the giant natural gas Khazzan field in Oman. In time, the data collected across the facilities would be fed into a digital cloud network, part of a global integrated approach to reduce methane and carbon emissions.

In addition to several initiatives that include partnering with other operators and industry groups, BP in March established a $100 million upstream carbon fund for selected projects. By the end of 2018, BP said it had generated 2.5 million metric tons of sustainable greenhouse gas emissions reductions throughout its businesses.