Flylogix has worked with six major energy companies to measure methane emissions in the North Sea. In the 2nd of a series of case studies, James Lawson, Senior Energy Transition Adviser at Harbour Energy plc gives his perspective on this pioneering project and explains how working in partnership with Flylogix, SeekOps, the Net Zero Technology Centre and other operators has created a blueprint towards meeting the Global Methane Pledge.
Flylogix: getting the measure of methane
Measuring methane emissions from offshore assets has, until now, been difficult, expensive, unreliable and – in itself – a source of high carbon emissions, depending as it often does on manned vehicle flights.
As Chris Adams of Flylogix says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. To effectively manage and reduce emissions, you need a detailed and reliable picture of what is happening.”
The advent of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) opened up the possibility of measuring methane accurately, regularly, cost-effectively and safely, without disruption to the asset, with minimal personnel, and with vastly-reduced emissions. SeekOps’ miniaturised laser spectroscope, originally developed for NASA’s Mars Rover project, offered unprecedented levels of sensitivity and accuracy.
Methane emissions from sources such as fugitives, combustion and flaring have generally been measured by ‘bottom-up’ calculations and estimations. This system means emissions can also be measured from the ‘top down’ for a more precise picture.
James Lawson, Senior Energy Transition Adviser at Harbour Energy plc
“Every oil and gas company is thinking about methane emissions and how best to understand and reduce them. Methane, by its very nature, is a lot more difficult to understand than CO2. You need more out-of-the-box thinking around it.”
“The oil and gas industry has constraints with its operations being located offshore. For measurements this means you have to fly people out to the platforms, but this solution overcomes the issue. It can also be difficult to take measurements on offshore platforms where there is equipment under the deck, over the side or very high up. Using UAVs has given us a strong belief that we now have accurate measurements for these difficult to reach locations.”
“Flylogix and SeekOps came on board as partners offering members of the NZTC project a step forward in terms of understanding our methane emissions. The project was set up as a collaboration between peers, which was important to us. It was also well-managed and curated and everyone was open and transparent. NZTC’s involvement was instrumental in de-risking those first steps on a pioneering technology: introducing us all to Flylogix and SeekOps, and bringing together a group of operators who could collaborate and use their combined knowledge and understanding.”
“This emerging drone technology could have been challenging for the CAA and other air-space users, but Flylogix has a strong relationship with them. They are now looking to get their operations incorporated into normal air-space operations, which would be a huge achievement and a big credit to the team.”
“Being a small, agile company they were personable and answered all our questions. It will be interesting to see what other applications there are now for UAV technology.”
Meeting the Global Methane Pledge
The Global Methane Pledge – announced in November 2021 – aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% compared to 2020 levels and has attracted more than 100 countries to sign up.
With methane emissions notoriously difficult to measure, a critical step towards meeting that target has been achieved through a partnership between Flylogix, SeekOps and the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) to accurately, safely and sustainably measure methane emissions from offshore assets.
Chris Adams of Flylogix says, “With the support of the Net Zero Technology Centre and the active collaboration of the peer companies, we’ve been able to innovate at real pace and lay the groundwork for the energy sector to contribute fully towards the Global Methane Pledge.”
Rebecca Allison, Head of Emissions Reduction at NZTC, comments: “We’ve talked a lot in the past about collaboration, and it’s been difficult to do that. But this has been a project where a lot of people have come together. The feedback from the community of like-minded people is what’s been exciting about the project.”
Brendan Smith, COO of SeekOps, adds: “The whole point of us doing this project is to be able to measure methane anywhere, globally, and generate like-for-like information, because to meet OGMP 2.0, operators will have to roll their data into one centralised location. This is a UN initiative – it doesn’t end at borders. So when we started this initiative it was to be a global offering and to educate the industry around the best practices for measuring methane.”
During the course of the project, the Flylogix and SeekOps solution achieved:
- 12,500km flown, unmanned
- Over 2.5m atmospheric methane data points recorded
- Average 10 x methane concentration measurements taken every second
- Data collected at just 250 metres from assets – the closest a UAV has flown to an offshore platform