DOE offers $32 million to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas

Published on August 09, 2022 by Chris Galford

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Methane monitoring, measurement and mitigation technologies are front and center for a new United States Department of Energy (DOE) funding opportunity that’s putting up $32 million for research and development that leads to reduced emissions in the oil and gas sector.

Methane emissions are the second most abundant greenhouse gas after CO2 and, according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, even more destructive to health and environment.

“So it’s crucial we develop solutions to identify and mitigate leaks at their source,” Granholm said. “Today’s funding bolsters DOE’s efforts to advance next-generation technologies and systems to help make the natural gas infrastructure leak-tight, which will dramatically reduce methane emissions across the country and deliver cleaner air for all.”

This is where the new FOA comes in. DOE wants to advance efficient, resilient and leak-tight natural gas infrastructure to help cut global methane emissions 30 percent by 2030, when compared to 2020 levels. Applicants will have until Oct. 4, 2022, to submit plans to advance networks of surface-based methane sensor technologies capable of monitoring large areas for methane emissions in oil and natural gas producing basins in a quicker, more efficient method than current technologies. In the name of greater emissions estimate accuracy, they can also work toward an integrated methane monitoring platform capable of early detection and improved assessment of methane emissions along the entire natural gas supply chain.

According to governmental figures, in addition to its extensive oil and natural gas pipeline network and infrastructure, the U.S. currently sits on more than 2 million active, abandoned or repurposed wells, all of which combine to emit around 8 million tons of methane annually. The hunt for emission sources has increased over the past decade thanks to surface-based technologies such as hand-held measurement devices and vehicle-based detection sensors, but the DOE added that these devices have limits: they cannot tackle large areas at speed. For that, atmospheric, satellite and other sensors exist, but they tend to be less accurate in the trade-off.