Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant responsible for approximately 20% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas (O&G) industry is considered among the most urgent and actionable measures to mitigate climate change. Recent reports suggest a large fraction of upstream O&G methane emissions result from a small number of super-emitter facilities, emphasizing the value of novel methods that inspect O&G facilities with greater frequency than is practical using existing techniques. Here we described an optimized method wherein O&G facilities are inspected for emissions at high frequency and high sensitivity using active laser (LiDAR) sensors mounted to aircraft. The method relies on a hierarchical clustering and routing procedure to establish optimal routes to be flown by aircraft departing from local airports and equipped with LiDAR methane sensors. Routes were optimized to inspect all well sites subject to emissions regulation in three O&G intensive regions: the Permian basin, the state of Colorado, and the state of Pennsylvania. While some cost estimates require additional field data, these modeling results suggest the optimized inspections can be performed with comparable effectiveness and up to a factor of six lower cost per inspection compared to current detection methods. This modeling exercise suggests that optimized routing may enable frequent inspection of upstream O&G facilities at large scale and potentially lead to a significant decrease in both anthropogenic methane emissions and compliance costs borne by industry.
Keywords methane, oil, gas, LiDAR, routes, LDAR