BP deploys continuous methane measurement for new major oil and gas projects

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BP has unveiled plans to deploy continuous measurement of methane emissions in its future BP-operated oil and gas processing projects.

Continuous measurement, including instruments such as gas cloud imaging (GCI), will be rolled out to all new major projects worldwide. The technology has also been tested and installed in existing facilities such as BP’s giant natural gas Khazzan field in Oman. 

It is a key part of BP’s wider and longer-term strategy to deploy a suite of complementary methane detecting techniques across new and existing facilities. The data generated will help BP identify the largest opportunities to tackle methane emissions, drive efficiency and develop best practice – and is aimed at delivering and improving on BP’s methane intensity target of 0.2% from its upstream operations. 

Step-change in industry practice
The deployment of this technology represents a major step-change in the oil and gas industry’s approach to detecting, quantifying and reducing methane emissions, reports BP.

According to Gordon Birrell, BP’s Chief Operating Officer for Production, Transformation and Carbon: ‘This programme represents an industry first and reflects our commitment to be a leader in advancing the energy transition by maximising the benefits of natural gas.  For gas to play its fullest role in the energy transition, we have to keep it in the pipe. 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.'

In addition to continuous methane measurement, BP is also aiming to make use of a network of complementary technology, including a new generation of drones, hand-held devices and multi-spectral flare combustion cameras – drawing upon scientific breakthroughs made in diverse fields, spanning healthcare, space exploration and defence. 

Morag Watson, BP’s Vice President of Digital Innovation, comments: ‘Technologies like GCI enable us to have continuous measurement. Coupled with complementary intermittent tools like drones equipped with lasers and methane ‘sniffing’ technology we are now creating a step-change in how we operate our new major projects, so that, inspections that used to take seven days will now be able to take 30 minutes.’

In time, the data collected will feed information into an extensive digital cloud network as part of a global integrated approach to reduce both methane and carbon emissions. 

Record-breaking pilot project
BP recently completed a pilot project testing new ways of remotely monitoring methane emissions on its offshore assets. The pilot, which combined advanced sensor technology originally designed by NASA for the Mars Curiosity Rover with a fixed-wing remote piloted air system (RPAS), or drone, broke the UK’s record for the longest commercial drone flight and demonstrates the feasibility of this approach to monitor methane. 

The drone circled the West of Shetland Clair platform at a radius of 550 metres for 90 minutes, travelling for a total of more than 185 km, significantly beating the previous record of 100 km. Throughout the flight, the RPAS live-streamed valuable data collected by the methane sensor.

Following the successful results, the specialist drone will be deployed to all of BP's North Sea assets in 2020, including ETAP and Glen Lyon. 

The North Sea trial follows the roll-out of a major leak detection drone programme in BP's US operations. BPX Energy is now using drone-mounted leak detection technologies, which enable up to 1,500 well sites to be surveyed every month across all its operating basins. 

The flights generate data around the location and size of a leak and issue a work order to fix it. The technicians in the field are quickly dispatched and equipped with multi-source augmented reality (AR) technology – or ‘smart glasses’ – which enables them to virtually link to technical support in the office. Using this technology, both are able to see the affected area and work together to fix it, improving safety, accuracy of repairs and productivity.

BPX Energy Chief Executive Dave Lawler comments: ‘We are encouraged by the efficiency gains achieved since drone inspections were fully deployed. Today, we are able to run leak detection and repair (LDAR) programmes in all of our assets at around $40 per well and we believe costs will continue to fall.’ 

BP recently completed a pilot project using a fixed-wing remote piloted air system (RPAS), or drone, to test  a new way of remotely monitoring methane emissions on its offshore assets
Photo: BP

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