Tackling Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Novel Printed Gas Sensors

ARPA-E

OBJECTIVE

Develop a low-cost system for detecting methane leaks at natural gas wells

 

SOLUTION

PARC’s printed gas sensors

INDUSTRY

Oil and gas

PARC FOCUS AREAS

IoT and Machine Intelligence

Novel Printing

 

Overview

OVERVIEW

Natural gas is an important part of our energy supply. There are more than 1 million oil and gas wells in North America and greater than 1.5 million miles of natural gas pipeline in the United States. Methane is the major component of natural gas. More potent than carbon dioxide, methane accounts for approximately 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) partnered with PARC to develop a low-cost system for detecting methane leaks at natural gas wells.

 

OBJECTIVE

Develop a low-cost system for detecting methane leaks at natural gas wells
Conventional methane detection methods, requiring on-site personnel and the use of optical cameras, can be very costly, especially at remote sites. Aside from being costly, traditional monitoring and detection systems do not provide real-time visibility into equipment failures and potential harmful gas leaks. ARPA-E was looking for an innovative solution to address these challenges.

 

WHY PARC?

Deep expertise in novel printing and electronics; Commitment to improving energy efficiency
Leveraging their expertise in novel printing techniques and electronics, PARC has developed a sensor system based on low-power electronics and printed transducers to address the need for timely and accurate monitoring of gases that are critical to many safety, infrastructure, health, maintenance and environmental applications. With a focus on delivering cost-effective, scalable and energy-efficient solutions, PARC was an ideal partner for ARPA-E.

 

SOLUTION

PARC’s printed gas sensors
PARC proposed their novel printed gas sensors as a low-cost solution that would be distributed around the gas wells to detect, quantify and locate the source of methane leaks. This information would give operators visibility into equipment failures and unsafe conditions and allow for more timely intervention.

PARC’s sensor technology is based on printed arrays of modified carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that interact with different gases. The presence of methane on the surface of the CNTs alters their electrical resistivity, which can then be measured using reliable, low-power electronic systems. The sensors are highly sensitive and selective, being able to distinguish methane (at very low levels) from other gases, even in high humidity conditions. Aside from methane, the sensors can be used to detect other potentially harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.

PARC has developed machine learning techniques to locate the source of a leak on a gas well site and quantify the leak rate based on distributed sensor information. This additional information can assist operators with prioritization of resource allocation.

 

RESULTS

Successful identification and quantification of methane leaks
PARC scientists performed initial field testing at simulated gas wells, where they successfully identified the source of methane leaks and quantified the leak rate. PARC also developed signal processing and data management routines to collect data for communication off-site via WiFi, cellular, or other technologies. This flexibility allows the system to be easily adapted for different usage scenarios.


*The information, data or work presented herein was funded in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy, under Award Number DE-AR0000542. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not nececssarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof..

Objective

Develop a low-cost system for detecting methane leaks at natural gas wells

Conventional methane detection methods, requiring on-site personnel and the use of optical cameras, can be very costly, especially at remote sites. Aside from being costly, traditional monitoring and detection systems do not provide real-time visibility into equipment failures and potential harmful gas leaks. ARPA-E was looking for an innovative solution to address these challenges.

Why PARC?

Deep expertise in novel printing and electronics; Commitment to improving energy efficiency

Leveraging their expertise in novel printing techniques and electronics, PARC has developed a sensor system based on low-power electronics and printed transducers to address the need for timely and accurate monitoring of gases that are critical to many safety, infrastructure, health, maintenance and environmental applications. With a focus on delivering cost-effective, scalable and energy-efficient solutions, PARC was an ideal partner for ARPA-E.

Solution

PARC’s printed gas sensors

PARC proposed their novel printed gas sensors as a low-cost solution that would be distributed around the gas wells to detect, quantify and locate the source of methane leaks. This information would give operators visibility into equipment failures and unsafe conditions and allow for more timely intervention.

PARC’s sensor technology is based on printed arrays of modified carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that interact with different gases. The presence of methane on the surface of the CNTs alters their electrical resistivity, which can then be measured using reliable, low-power electronic systems. The sensors are highly sensitive and selective, being able to distinguish methane (at very low levels) from other gases, even in high humidity conditions. Aside from methane, the sensors can be used to detect other potentially harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.

PARC has developed machine learning techniques to locate the source of a leak on a gas well site and quantify the leak rate based on distributed sensor information. This additional information can assist operators with prioritization of resource allocation.

Results

Successful identification and quantification of methane leaks

PARC scientists performed initial field testing at simulated gas wells, where they successfully identified the source of methane leaks and quantified the leak rate. PARC also developed signal processing and data management routines to collect data for communication off-site via WiFi, cellular, or other technologies. This flexibility allows the system to be easily adapted for different usage scenarios.

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Printed Gas Sensors Case Study


“We are looking at applying our printed sensor technology to other segments of the oil and gas industry including transmission pipelines, compressor stations, refineries, and distribution networks. Our highly sensitive, low-cost sensors can also be used for air quality monitoring, carbon monoxide detection in the home, and other safety applications.”

David Schwartz, Manager of Energy Devices and Systems, PARC

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