THE DANGERS OF METHANE GAS LEAKS.
Known as the other greenhouse gas, the dangers of methane gas leaks, which has many sources natural and manmade, but mainly from the Oil and Gas industry as it is primary component of natural gas which is a common fuel source.
The main dangers of a buildup of methane gas are the risks of:
- explosions and
- asphyxiation (oxygen replacement)
- major climate change dangers. In January 2018 the Rocky Mountain Institute (Richard Ward Kevin Haley) asserted that cutting methane emissions from oil and gas production to be one of the year’s biggest energy challenges. That the oil and gas industry has a major methane problem, was also echoed in another extensive environmental study (EDF). They discovered that the odorless, colorless methane gas is seeping out of wells and tanks at hundreds of natural gas facilities across the U.S., 8,000 sites in the U.S. in an unpredictable pattern around the country.
They also discovered that super-emitters are highly unpredictable, and that these leaks can happen anywhere, anytime, at large facilities and small facilities
In February, seepage at the Alison Canyon gas storage facility, near Porter Ranch, California, released roughly 100,000 tons of methane gas into the atmosphere before it was plugged. It was the largest methane leak in U.S. history. The impact on the climate is said to be the equivalent of the annual emissions of half a million cars.
Methane gas is a potent greenhouse gas and is responsible for 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. It packs 84 times more warming power than carbon dioxide and has an effect 25 times higher than CO2 over a 100-year time period.
Oil and gas producers in the U.S., spew more than nine million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere every year, according to the EDF. Some of those emissions come from major leaks but much of the country’s methane emissions come from small natural gas processing and storage plants.
The causes of methane leaks vary from faulty equipment, shoddy maintenance to infrequent inspections that can create seepages and allow them to persist. If inspection are not conducted on a regular basis, you won’t see or smell these emissions.
It was also reported that there has been little co-ordinated oversight of the biggest oil and gas leaks in recent years. The Aliso Canyon, the BP spill and the Total Elgin rig blowout in the North Sea are examples where luck more than intent ensured the impacts on the environment were monitored.
This regular monitoring can often be very difficult as inspection points are often remote, hard to reach and/or dangerous to approach. UAV-borne remote methane gas sensors are proving to be the ideal solution to this challenge.
The following infogram outlines how methane gas emissions are distributed over Oil and Gas value chains.