From The Houston Chronicle

BP said Tuesday it is launching a new system of gas cloud imaging and aerial drones to monitor and help reduce methane emissions around the world.

The British energy major said it will deploy a system of continuous measurement of methane emissions for all of its new major projects worldwide and that it will use frequent drone flights to detect methane emissions at its existing wells ranging from West Texas’ Permian Basin to the United Kingdom’s North Sea.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the primary component of natural gas. Methane emissions have long been considered the Achilles’ heel of the natural gas sector and the argument that gas is a cleaner-burning energy alternative to both coal and crude oil.

The booming Permian, for instance, has undergone a massive increase in methane emissions from natural gas flaring and venting in recent years, driven by higher activity and a lack of gas pipelines near the oil wells. Companies mostly only drill for the more valuable crude oil in the Permian, but associated gas comes out of the wells. Many companies opt to simply burn much of the gas away at the wellhead rather than possibly lose money transporting and selling the cheap gas.

“For gas to play its fullest role in the energy transition, we have to keep it in the pipe,” said Gordon Birrell, BP’s chief operating officer for production, transformation and carbon. “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.”

The continuous measurement on new projects, including technology called gas cloud imaging, has been pilot tested and installed at BP’s giant natural gas Khazzan field in Oman.

With all these new technologies, inspections that used to take seven days will now only take 30 minutes, BP said.

While BP very recently rolled out drone inspections at shale wells, BP also just successfully tested drone monitoring at its Clair oilfield in the North Sea.

Using advanced sensor technology originally designed by NASA for the Mars Curiosity Rover with a fixed-wing drone, BP said it broke the UK’s record for the longest commercial drone flight. The specialty drone system will monitor all of BP’s North Sea sites in 2020.

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