The energy industry is one of the largest sources of methane emissions, and, despite a recent drop in oil and gas production, addressing its impact remains important.

With an estimated annual global emission rate of roughly 570 million tonnes, new technologies are needed to combat and reduce the invisible threat. Geosite, a cloud-based geospatial data marketplace with integrated spatial data management and collaboration, has developed a methane base map that will provide the energy sector with actionable imagery to detect high emission events like an unlit flare or a leak.

“It’s unrealistic to think that flaring is going to go away,” Jeff Williams, energy lead at Geosite, told Hart Energy. “But, we want to make sure that we’re giving operators the data and the tools to do their best to reduce their carbon and methane emissions footprint. We have to be creative and think digitally about how things like methane, flaring and gas capturing will be possible and it’s going to be the digital tools that are going to be at the forefront of that work.”

The company has tested the tool in the Permian Basin and North Dakota’s Bakken field, where the majority of methane from the sector is being emitted.

In 2019, the Permian’s flaring and venting totaled roughly 293.2 Bcf, while the volume in the Bakken was over 200 Bcf, according to Reuters report released in February 2020. Additionally, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota led a 66% nationwide increase in flaring and venting in 2018, and represented 90% of the national total that year.

Using Geosite’s geospatial data and capabilities, operators mount their well and asset locations on the company’s methane base map. The resulting interactive map then can help operators manage assets by exception, lower unwarranted methane emission events, improve asset integrity and decrease miles driven.

Williams said the composite layer updates weekly to indicate new methane hot spots, giving operators a better sense of field awareness and insight on how to improve opex on a continuous basis.

“We have the ability to integrate datasets like GPS and field operation locations as well as IoT and SCADA sensors to give you more information on the well and improve exception-based monitoring capabilities,” he said. “If an operator knows where to and not to go, they can decrease road miles, improve asset efficiency and be more proactive instead of reactive when it comes to managing their methane emissions.”

(Source: Geosite Inc.)

Geosite’s methane detection tool also comes at a time when companies are starting to navigate the energy transition. For example, big players like Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc, Chevron Corp. and Repsol SA recently unveiled ambitious targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

But, when it comes to developing energy technology, Williams said it has to “ease a problem or you have to find an interesting way to reduce cost and improve efficiencies.”

“Right now, the industry is flying blind and they’re not leveraging any data methane wise,” he said. “Digital tools like Geosites’ and other digital products should be more focused on solving this problem because the [methane] problem is not going to go away, the scrutiny is not going to go away and it’s only getting bigger.”

Geosite will release the methane base map tool later this year and plans to continue to build on the technology to aid both the energy industry as well as the environment.  

“We’re very confident in the solution,” Williams said. “We found that this data is very much serviceable and manageable and we’re getting good reception from operators and regulatory. I think we’re onto something that is going to ease a pain for our clients and it’s going to help them improve efficiency and reduce, hopefully, their opex as well.”