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DOE Announces $13 Million to Quantify and Mitigate Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced a total of $13 million to be awarded to twelve multi-year research projects intended to develop cost efficient and effective ways to mitigate methane emissions from natural gas pipeline and storage infrastructure. The research will also look to better quantify the sources, volumes and rates of methane emissions. This new initiative by the Office of Fossil Energy builds upon the President's Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.

“This 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’s 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.”

Natural gas currently provides heat to millions of American homes and is expected to provide a third of the nation’s total electric power generation this year. While natural gas has lower carbon emissions than some other energy resources, the associated methane emissions – if not addressed – could undermine the environmental benefits of expanded use of this abundant domestic resource. As a result, the Administration has announced a number of steps to address concerns about methane emissions in recent years.

Seven of these newly selected projects will be mitigation-focused research efforts that will work on developing a suite of natural gas leak reduction technologies. These research initiatives will help to develop, modify, and evaluate tools and technologies for methane mitigation beyond a proof of concept and eventually have the potential to be commercialized in the near future.

The remaining five projects will advance methane emission quantification research that is intended to better measure and understand methane emissions derived from the natural gas supply chain.

The following seven projects represent the start of DOE’s Methane Emissions Mitigation from Midstream Infrastructure research:

Oceanit (Honolulu, Hawaii)—Oceanit, 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. DOE funding: $1,200,000

Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Texas)— Southwest Research Institute will develop and demonstrate an optical-based methane leak detection system for midstream infrastructures. DOE funding: $629,517

PPG Industries, Inc. (Allison Park, Pennsylvania)— PPG Industries, Inc., GTI, and RTI International will develop and demonstrate three technology platforms which will be combined as a system to provide remote monitoring of natural gas pipeline conditions, and early detection of factors leading to a potential for unintended methane release. DOE funding: $876,639

Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)—Princeton University, along with American Aerospace Advisors, Inc., will develop and deploy new advances in chirped laser dispersion spectroscopy (CLaDS) to make an airborne‐based sensor for remote detection of methane leaks from pipelines, compressor stations, and other midstream infrastructure. The technology would use a range-resolved, integrated-path spectroscopic technique to remotely identify leaks along pipelines and other related facilities. The primary objective is to develop, test, and field demonstrate the heterodyne-enhanced chirped modulated CLaDS (HE-CM-CLaDS) system for the ability to perform measurements with low light returns, immunity of the measured signal to back-scattered light intensity fluctuations and high linearity and extended dynamic range of concentration detection. DOE funding: $1,188,735

Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Texas)— Southwest Research Institute, 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. The primary objective is to design, manufacture, and test a liquid seal in a full-scale setting to demonstrate the operability of the seal, verify the performance of components, and demonstrate the potential for producing a seal that reduces methane emissions with minimal wear to the seal. DOE funding: $797,517

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) (Des Plaines, Illinois) — GTI and Jet Propulsion Laboratory will develop and test an integrated Thermoelectric Generator/burner system in a field pilot for oil and gas field operations. The system will substitute air instead of natural gas as the operating fluid for pneumatic controllers, resulting in energy recovery and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  DOE funding: $1,199,353

University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)— The University of Pittsburgh 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.  DOE funding: $1,200,000

In addition, DOE has selected five projects which will kick off DOE Methane Emissions Quantification research:

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) (Des Plaines, Illinois)— GTI along with AECOM, GHD Services, Inc., and WSU Laboratory for Atmospheric Research  Laboratory 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. The primary objective is to collect information on parameters that would allow further classification of pipeline and meter emission categories to improve the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) and help operators prioritize the repair of leaks to maximize reduction of methane emissions.  DOE funding: $1,090,719

Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colorado)—The University of Colorado and AECOM will: (1) develop nationally-representative, activity-weighted, methane emission factors for each type of principal equipment located at typical gathering compressor stations suitable for use in EPA’s GHGI; (2) develop estimates of episodic emissions; and (3) test new methods to characterize intermittent device emissions. The primary objectives include conducting a field measurement campaign, consolidating and publishing measurement results, developing a national model of gathering operations, and publishing a national model of methane emissions, including activity-weighted emission factors.  DOE Funding: $1,872,018

GSI Environmental Inc (Houston, Texas)— GSI Environmental Inc, along with Utah State University, Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Colorado State University, and Houston Advanced Research Center, will carry out field investigation activities at the Clay Basin, Utah, underground natural gas storage facility, which ranks among the top 20 largest gas storage facilities in the U.S. The primary objective is to employ a novel combination of complementary measurement methods and technologies to detect and accurately quantify average annual methane emissions from an underground natural gas storage facility, including from aboveground equipment leaks and seepage at the ground surface from underground leaks. DOE Funding: $1,208,499

GSI Environmental Inc (Houston, Texas)— GSI Environmental Inc, along with Utah State University, Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, and Houston Advanced Research Center, will employ a step-wise process to improve the accuracy of methane emissions reported in EPA’s GHGI.   GSI will integrate a novel data visualization package that digitally overlays methane concentrations and rates over time with three dimensional smart maps of the site. DOE funding: $800,480

University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, Colorado)— University of Colorado Boulder, 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.  The project will consist of multi-month deployments of a ground based dual frequency comb spectrometer in conjunction with multiple, focused aircraft mass balance flights at oil and natural gas storage facilities. DOE funding: $1,323,130

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research, development and demonstration projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced carbon technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit our website or sign up for FE news announcements.  

Distribution channels: Energy