Quantum camera to ‘dramatically’ cut methane emissions in oil and gas industry

Developed by University of Bristol spinout QLM Technology, the camera can continuously detect, quantify and model the development of leaks and notify plant operators immediately when gas escapes

The Big Zero report

Methane leaks are to be “dramatically” reduced in the oil and gas industry, thanks to a new quantum-enabled gas imaging camera.

Developed by University of Bristol spinout QLM Technology, the camera can visualise and measure the amount of gas being lost through leaks from great distances.

It can continuously detect, quantify and model the development of leaks and notify plant operators immediately when gas escapes.

This represents a major improvement on current methods of detection, which are time consuming and make measuring the amount lost difficult.

Roger McKinlay, UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge Director said: “This camera uses state of the art quantum technology to ‘see the invisible’.

“It will help reduce the amount of methane which escapes into the atmosphere through leaks, which is both costly to the oil and gas industry and damaging to the environment.

“In the year of COP26, innovations like this that find practical ways of reducing emissions have never been more important.”

Methane, if released into the atmosphere, is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, making large-scale emissions many times worse for the atmosphere.

Scientists estimate if just 3.2% of methane brought up from wells leaks rather than being burnt, natural gas becomes even less eco-friendly than coal, therefore, it is imperative for the leaks to be minimised or eliminated altogether.

Murray Reed, CEO of QLM Technology added: “The oil and gas majors have pledged to significantly reduce their methane emissions but you can’t manage what you can’t measure and no one is measuring methane properly, continuously and at scale.

“The scale of the problem is enormous, with more than half a million active gas wells in North America alone and many thousands of offshore rigs and gas storage facilities worldwide.

“In the UK we have 24 major pipeline compressor stations, which power long-distance natural gas pipes and hundreds of above ground storage installations. All are leaking at some time.”

The universities of Sheffield, Aston and Bristol are working to expand the range of gases the new sensors can detect, to include many other greenhouse gases, opening up the possibility of using this technology in other sectors such as agriculture.

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast