Innovation That Matters

| Photo source LongPath

Cutting-edge technology detects methane leaks


One company uses lasers to spot escaped methane from oil and gas operations

Spotted: Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, has a remarkable ability to trap heat in the atmosphere around 80 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Detecting leaks of this invisible-to-the-eye gas is also extremely difficult.

In an effort to stop methane leaks from going undetected, Colorado-based company LongPath has achieved a breakthrough in laser technology and quantum sensing. The company has developed a pioneering leak-detection system capable of continuously detecting gas escaping from pipes at oil and gas facilities.

To detect the trace gases, a laser-emitting spectrometer is positioned in the centre of a circle. Encircling the device are mirrors, designed to reflect the lasers back to themselves. When the spectrometer fires a laser, it may encounter gas clouds like methane. Should this happen, the returning light from the mirrors will convey data about the type of gas that is present, and how to pinpoint it. With this information, teams can more quickly and effectively respond to leaks.  

LongPath’s groundbreaking innovation offers a plethora of benefits, ranging from potential industry savings of up to $980 million (around €904 million) because of stopped leaks, to improvements in air quality and human health. Gas leaks not only harm and displace thousands annually but also contribute to the escalating dangers of greenhouse gas emissions, posing a growing threat to our planet.

The company has secured financial support from the Department of Energy (DOE) for a loan of up to $189 million (around €174 million) to accelerate the expansion of its monitoring systems. Presently, LongPath’s system is operational in oil and gas facilities across multiple US states, encompassing hundreds of thousands of acres.

Springwise has spotted other innovations that focus on reducing methane, from a seaweed extract that could help to reduce cattle greenhouse gas emissions to a startup using ships to break up atmospheric methane.

Written By: Georgia King




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