Sherry Vargson ignites the tap water in her kitchen in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, in 2012. Her family’s farm is in the Marcellus Shale region, where the fracking rigs have contributed to increased methane in the water supply.
Shell has launched a methane detector pilot at one of its shale gas sites in Alberta, Canada.
The pilot test is part of a wider initiative called the Methane Detectors Challenge, a collaboration between the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), oil and gas companies, US government agencies and technology developers to develop a next generation methane detection system. It is hoped that the initiative will result in earlier detection and repair of methane links, in turn reducing emissions.
“This pilot shows we’re serious about reducing the methane emissions associated with natural gas production to support the overall climate benefit of this fuel,” said Greg Guidry, Executive Vice President Unconventionals, Shell. “Shell is looking at all aspects of its operations, from equipment to processes, to assess and identify emission reduction opportunities.”
34 times more potent as a heat trapping gas than carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas which proves a costly challenge for the energy industry. It is a common byproduct of shale gas extraction, making detecting the presence of the gas hugely important.
Shell already has leak detection and repair programmes in operation across all of its shale gas sites, however, the Quanta3 sensing system used in the pilot is a new technology that can continuously monitor methane emissions, unlike handheld optical gas imaging (OGI) cameras.
“A new frontier of methane detection is coming, and Shell is helping to give us a glimpse of that future,” said Ben Ratner, Director, EDF. “The ultimate test will be whether the industry scales new tools and approaches to minimize wasteful methane emissions in North America and across the world.”
Depending on the outcome of the pilot, next generation detection technologies could be used to complement OGI cameras and other monitoring tools. These technologies could also have broader applications across the natural gas value chain.
In addition to the Methane Detectors Challenge, Shell is involved in other partnerships, including the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), to understand the gaps in methane data and detection technology to help both companies and policy-makers act more effectively.