Drones with machine learning to detect methane leaks

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is working with the Southwest Research Institute to develop a leak detection system of oil and gas facilities. SwRI researchers will adapt the Smart Leak Detection System/Methane (SLED/M) technology to detect methane leaks in real time, from aboard a drone

The SLED/M technology, winner of an R&D 100 Award in 2017, uses cameras and artificial intelligence to detect liquid hydrocarbon leaks on pipelines and facilities, such as pump stations.

“After successfully developing SLED/M for stationary applications, such as fenceline monitoring of midstream facilities, we are advancing the technology to perform autonomously from drones,” said Maria Araujo, a manager in SwRI’s Critical Systems Department.

The system identifies small methane leaks by pairing passive optical sensing data with artificial intelligence algorithms. The latest funding will enable SwRI to collect data, test midwave infrared cameras (MWIR) on drone flights and develop machine learning algorithms to detect methane leaks.

“Drones and camera configurations present unique challenges because they capture data at different heights, distances and speeds,” Araujo added. “This funding enables development and testing to adapt the technology for commercial aerial inspections.”

SwRI designed SLED/M to pinpoint the smaller methane leaks that typically go unnoticed along pipelines and storage facilities. Conventional detection systems, designed to locate larger leaks, suffer from false positives and missed detections, which hamper effectiveness and utilization by industry. SLED/M reduces false positives and detects leaks that may go unnoticed by optimizing algorithms to reliably detect leaks under a variety of environmental conditions.

Methane, the main component in natural gas, is considered a more threatening greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide because it absorbs heat more effectively. The World Meteorological Organization recently reported that methane levels are 2.5 times higher than pre-industrial times.

SwRI is addressing methane leaks from multiple disciplines. A team of fluids engineers participated in the Methane Detectors Challenge, developing a solar-powered system to identify fugitive emissions in the gas-producing sector.

SwRI is also pairing satellite data from space with algorithms to identify large methane leaks from midstream facilities and crude oil spills on the ocean surface.

 

Source: SwRI

Read more Innovation Stories